A woman who was impregnated by a Vermont doctor who used his own sperm has been awarded over $5.2 million in damages by a federal court jury.
NBC News reports that Cheryl Rousseau accused her doctor Dr. John Coates III of inseminating her with his semen without her consent in 1977, and filed a lawsuit against him in 2018. She said she had an artificial insemination procedure at the Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin, Vermont with the doctor, who denied the accusation. The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont jury awarded her $5 million in punitive damages, and $250,000 in compensatory damages on Wednesday.
Rousseau and her husband Peter filed the lawsuit after their daughter, who is now an adult, used DNA testing in October 2018 only to discover that Coates was her father. At the time, he agreed to inseminate her with what he said was a donor’s sperm. Peter Rousseau was originally part of the lawsuit, too, but the judge determined that he couldn’t prove he suffered damages.
“The jury through its punitive damages verdict sent a message to any physicians who might think about lying to their patients or using their own semen to inseminate their patients,” said Rousseau’s attorney Celeste Laramie, per the Associated Press. “Such behavior will have serious consequences.”
Coates is facing another lawsuit from a Colorado woman, as reported in June last year. Shirley Brown said that Coates agreed to artificially inseminate her using donated semen in 1978, but used his own.
$5 million isn’t nearly enough.