BERLIN — The Florida couple suing a gynecologist and Central Vermont Medical Center over claims the doctor used his own sperm to get a woman pregnant in the 1970s have filed a motion saying the case has stalled because the defendants are waiting on their motions to dismiss to be ruled on.
Cheryl and Peter Rousseau, now of Florida, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington Dec. 4. It states they had decided to partake in artificial insemination in 1977 because they wanted to have a child and Peter Rousseau had a vasectomy.
The lawsuit said Dr. John Boyd Coates III was a practicing gynecologist and was working out of Central Vermont Hospital, the former name of CVMC. The Rousseaus said in the lawsuit Coates agreed to artificially inseminate Cheryl Rousseau. They said Coates agreed to use sperm from an unnamed medical student who resembled Peter Rousseau, but he ended up using his own sperm to get Cheryl Rousseau pregnant.
Jerome O’Neill, one of the attorneys representing the Rousseaus, has said Barbara Rousseau had been working with a geneticist to find out who her biological father was so that she would know her family’s medical history. He said she used publicly available information from genetic testing databases such as 23andMe.com and Ancestry.com when she discovered her father was Coates.
The family was shocked when they found out Coates had used his own sperm to impregnate Cheryl Rousseau, according to O’Neill.
The Rousseaus are suing Coates and the hospital for medical negligence, failure to obtain informed consent, fraud, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional inflection of emotional distress, breach of contract, consumer protection act violation and negligent supervision. They are seeking over $75,000 in damages.
Coates is being represented by attorney Peter Joslin who filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last month. Joslin said in the motion Coates denies he is Barbara Rousseau’s father.
The motion cites the state’s parentage law which said sperm donors cannot be genetically tested to find out if they are the father of a child. So the Rousseaus have to establish that Coates is the woman’s father, but they can’t do that because they claim he was a sperm donor, according to the motion.
The motion also said federal courts don’t have jurisdiction when it comes to determining parentage; that is left to state family courts.
The hospital is being represented by attorney Ritchie Berger who also filed a motion to dismiss last month. In his motion, Berger said the suit should be dismissed because Coates was not an employee of the hospital as the Rousseaus allege. He said Coates was a private physician who was given privileges to use the hospital for his practice.
In a motion filed last week, O’Neill said federal rules require both parties to come together and decide on a scheduling order for discovery in the case. O’Neill said the parties met on Jan. 30 but were not able to agree upon a schedule.
“The reason is a disagreement as to whether discovery should be stayed pending a decision by the Court on Defendants’ motions to dismiss. … If the Defendants move to stay discovery, a brief review of the motions to dismiss will illustrate that neither motion is likely to succeed,” he said in the motion.
O’Neill said in his motion Coates “effectively concedes the issue of paternity” by suggesting a court cannot hear this case because of the state’s parentage law. He said the court should allow discovery to go forward in the case and to set a schedule for doing so.