Health Law & Business News

Fertility Doctor Must Submit to DNA Test in Paternity Case

Jan. 23, 2019, 5:08 PM

A fertility doctor accused of using his own sperm to impregnate a woman who came to him for help conceiving must take a DNA test to determine if he fathered a baby born to her in 1980.

Physician Gerald Mortimer must take the test because there is no other way of confirming Kelli Rowlette’s paternity, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho said Jan. 22.

Rowlette’s parents, Sally Ashby and Howard Fowler, sued Mortimer for professional misconduct in March 2018. They said Mortimer told them he used sperm from an anonymous donor to inseminate Ashby.

They didn’t suspect otherwise until 2017, when an Ancestry.com test linked Rowlette to other people fathered by the fertility doctor, the plaintiffs said.

The “core” of Mortimer’s defense is that he didn’t use his own sperm, the court said. Thus, his DNA is central to the dispute and is a proper matter for discovery, it said.

There was good cause for the DNA test because Rowlette’s supposed relationship to Mortimer couldn’t be proven through the Ancestry.com test results, the court said. Those results aren’t admissible in court because there is no documented chain of custody, it said.

There also is an issue of whether the Ancestry.com results were reliable, which would “create a far greater distraction for the jury than would a second DNA test confirming Dr. Mortimer’s paternity,” the court said.

Walker Heye Meehan & Eisinger PLLC and Purcell Law PLLC represent Ashby and Fowler. Powers, Tolman, Farley PLLC represents Mortimer.

The case is Ashby v. Mortimer, 2019 BL 20121, D. Idaho, No. 4:18-cv-143, 1/22/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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