A Colorado jury on Wednesday awarded plaintiffs $8.75 million in a civil lawsuit that accused a former fertility doctor of using his own sperm to impregnate at least a dozen women through artificial insemination for more than two decades.
Judgment went to Cheryl Emmons, her husband and two of her daughters, who their lawyer Patrick Fitz-Gerald said had been surreptitiously fathered by physician Paul B. Jones.
The Emmons and seven other families filed a lawsuit in October 2019 against Dr. Jones and the clinic where he worked, Women’s Health Care of Western Colorado, alleging medical negligence, lack of informed consent, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, battery, and extreme and outrageous conduct, according to the lawsuit.
Five of the families settled for an undisclosed sum before the case went to trial, Mr Fitz-Gerald said. Two other claims against Dr. Jones are still active.
Because the Emmons filed more claims against Dr. Jones than against the clinic, he would have to pay the vast majority of the $8.75 million, Mr. Fitz-Gerald said.
Dr. Jones’ attorneys, Nicole Marie Black and Nancy L. Cohen, did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls Thursday seeking comment. But in 2019, around the time the lawsuit was filed, Dr. Jones refused to tell a KUSA reporter in Denver whether he fathered the children named in the lawsuit.
” I do not deny it ; I don’t admit it,” he said at the time.
He gave up his doctor’s license in November 2019, days after the families filed a lawsuit, state records show.
Ivan Sarkissian, an attorney for Women’s Health Care of Western Colorado, where Dr. Jones worked, did not immediately return emails or calls Thursday.
Dr. Jones, Ms. Emmons’ former obstetrician and gynecologist in Grand Junction, Colorado, is believed to have fathered at least 17 children with 12 women from 1975 to 1997, Maia Emmons-Boring, one of Ms. Emmons’ daughters, said Thursday .
In 1979 and 1984, Dr Jones impregnated Ms Emmons by artificial insemination after suggesting he would find a doctor or medical student to be his sperm donor, Ms Emmons-Boring said.
He never told the family he was the one who provided the semen sample, Ms Emmons-Boring said. Dr Jones, now 83, even helped deliver both Ms Emmons-Boring and her sister Tahnee Scott.
Ms Emmons-Boring had never doubted the man who raised her was not her father until a series of events that began after she took a DNA test on Ancestry.com.
In 2018, after Ms Emmons-Boring took the test, she said she received a message from a woman who thought they were half-siblings. She didn’t believe the woman at first, but then she dug.
Her parents then told her for the first time that she and her sister had been conceived through artificial insemination. She spent weeks building a family tree “until he met Dr. Jones,” she said.
She messaged five other half-siblings she had found online, who “were all shocked and disgusted” by the news, Ms Emmons-Boring, 41, said.
A few weeks later, they called the law firm of Mr. Fitz-Gerald, Driskell, Fitz-Gerald & Ray. Eight families eventually filed a lawsuit against him and the clinic, Mr. Fitz-Gerald said.
Dr. Jones was never charged with a crime related to artificial insemination, according to Daniel P. Rubinstein, the prosecutor for the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Mesa County, Colorado. At the time, Mr. Rubinstein said, it was not a crime in Colorado for a doctor to withhold the identity of a sperm donor.
After news of Dr. Jones’ actions spread in Colorado, the state passed a law in 2020 that made it a crime if a healthcare provider “knowingly used gametes” from a donor without consent. of the patient.
At least 50 fertility doctors in the United States have been accused in recent years of donating sperm after commercial DNA testing became widespread.
Ms Emmons-Boring said she was working with Colorado lawmakers on one of the first laws in the country that would offer some protections to children conceived as a result of fertility fraud.
Right now, she says, she’s “dealing with a lot of guilt” for the fact that she’s already taken a DNA test.
“It changed so many lives because I passed that test,” she said.
She is also concerned that because Dr. Jones fathered so many children in one area, some of them may be dating or marrying each other.
Ms Emmons-Boring said some of her half-siblings believe Dr Jones may have passed on a cystic fibrosis gene, but they cannot know for sure as he refused to share his medical history with them.
“It would be nice,” she said, “if he showed some kind of compassion.”