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