Doctor Sued for Artificially Inseminating with Own Sperm
When Elizabeth White sought artificial insemination from fertility doctor Donald Cline in 1981, she was told he would artificially inseminate her with donor sperm from an anonymous medical school resident. Cline also informed Elizabeth that the donor sperm would be used in no more than three successful artificial insemination procedures in a well-defined geographic area.
But that did not happen, she later learned. Elizabeth was among dozens of women whom authorities came to believe Cline impregnated with his sperm between the 1970s and 1980s at his Indianapolis clinic, without the women’s consent. Cline was criminally charged with obstruction of justice and handed a one-year suspended sentence in 2017 after pleading guilty to charges that he lied to investigators when he denied wrongdoing.
Last year, Indiana lawmakers made fertility fraud a Level 6 felony after finding no law on the books specifically prohibited what the doctor did. The Legislature also created a civil cause of action for fertility fraud, which enables the plaintiff to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, or liquidated damages of $10,000.
Elizabeth’s son, Matthew White, learned as an adult that the “anonymous” sperm donor who impregnated his mother was actually Cline. The mother and son filed a proposed medical malpractice complaint against Cline in 2016 with the Indiana Department of Insurance, and later filed a joint multi-count complaint for damages against the appellants in the Marion Superior Court.
Cline and the defendants then filed an Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss Matthew’s claims for breach of contract, medical malpractice, and negligent hiring and retention, alleging that Matthew had failed to state claims for which relief could be granted. But after a hearing, the trial court concluded that Matthew had sufficiently stated breach of contract and negligence claims.
At the outset, the appellate court noted that it did not need to determine whether Matthew was a third-person beneficiary to the contract. “Here, because Matthew has stated a damages claim for which relief can be granted and placed Appellants on notice as to why he sues, Appellants may ‘flesh out’ specific evidentiary facts regarding Matthew’s damages through the discovery process. Whether Matthew can prevail on a claim for emotional distress damages will depend on those facts,” the panel concluded.