BERLIN — More motions have been filed in a case n which a Florida couple is suing a gynecologist and Central Vermont Medical Center over claims the doctor used his own sperm to get a woman pregnant in the 1970s.
The motions ask the court to delay discovery until the motions to dismiss have been addressed.
Cheryl and Peter Rousseau, now of Florida, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington on 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 using sperm from an unnamed medical student who resembled Peter Rousseau, but he ended up using his own sperm to get Cheryl Rousseau pregnant.
Barbara Rousseau had worked with a geneticist to find out who her biological father was so she would know her family’s medical history, according to Jerome O’Neill, one of the attorneys representing the Rousseaus. O’Neill 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 infliction 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 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.
O’Neill filed his own motion last week that 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 Jan. 30 but were not able to agree upon a schedule because the hospital and Coates both want to wait until the motions to dismiss are ruled on before moving forward.
Joslin and Berger filed motions this week stating as much, asking the court to halt discovery. Joslin said in his motion Coates is retired and doesn’t have insurance coverage for any of the allegations so he is paying legal fees out of pocket.
“It would be inappropriate to require Dr. Coates to incur legal expenses in a case that may well be dismissed,” the motion said.
Joslin said the case is more than 41 years old so there’s no harm in waiting a few more months until the motions to dismiss are dealt with.
Berger said in his motion going forward with the case while the motions to dismiss are pending “could end up being entirely pointless” if the court decides to dismiss the case.
“This is a classic failure to see the forest for the trees. (The Rousseaus) are focused on discovery when their entire case may very well be completely dismissed,” Berger said in his motion.
Berger agreed with Joslin that because the case is so old the Rousseaus wouldn’t be prejudiced by waiting for a ruling on the motions to dismiss.