United States District Court, D. Vermont
OPINION AND ORDER
William K. Sessions III District Court Judge
1977, Dr. John Boyd Coates agreed to artificially inseminate
Cheryl Rousseau with genetic material from an unnamed medical
student. Cheryl and her husband Peter now claim that,
unbeknownst to them until very recently, Dr. Coates in fact
used his own genetic material and is the biological father of
their daughter. The Complaint against Dr. Coates and Central
Vermont Medical Center, Inc. (“CVMCâ) asserts several
causes of action, including medical negligence, fraud, and
breach of contract.
have each moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. For the reasons
set forth below, Dr. Coates's motion to dismiss is
denied. CVMC's motion to dismiss is
granted, all claims against CVMC are
dismissed without prejudice, and the
Rousseaus are granted leave to amend their Complaint.
in this case is based upon diversity, as Cheryl and Peter
Rousseau are citizens of Florida, Dr. Coates is a citizen of
Vermont, and CVMC is located in Berlin, Vermont. For purposes
of the pending motions to dismiss, the allegations in the
Complaint will generally be accepted as true.
Rousseaus were married in October 1974. Once married, they
explored conceiving a child through artificial insemination.
They met with Dr. Coates, who agreed to perform the
insemination procedure using genetic material from an unnamed
medical student. Dr. Coates informed the Rousseaus that the
unnamed student resembled Peter Rousseau, met specific
characteristics that Cheryl Rousseau required, and had been
tested for the purpose of being a donor of genetic material.
Dr. Coates also required Peter Rousseau to retain counsel and
agree in a written contract to adopt any child born as a
result of the procedure.
Coates allegedly performed the procedure twice on Cheryl
Rousseau, both times at Central Vermont Hospital (now CVMC).
Although he had pledged to use the genetic material of the
aforementioned anonymous medical student, the Rousseaus claim
that Dr. Coates instead used his own genetic material. As a
result, Dr. Coates is allegedly the father of the
Rousseaus' daughter, born December 27, 1977.
Coates continued to serve as Cheryl Rousseau's
obstetrician and gynecologist for a year after the
child's birth. Although he allegedly knew that he was the
father, he never disclosed that fact to the Rousseaus or
their daughter. Dr. Coates currently denies the allegation
that he used his own genetic material to impregnate Cheryl
Rousseau, and denies that he is the biological father of her
October of 2018, the Rousseaus' daughter, now known as
Barbara Mary Frances Gordon, used DNA testing in an effort to
learn more about her biological father. When she received the
results of that testing, she allegedly learned that Dr.
Coates was her genetic father.
Complaint presents nine causes of action: medical negligence;
failure to obtain informed consent; fraud; battery; negligent
infliction of emotional distress; intentional infliction of
emotional distress; breach of contract; violation of the
Consumer Protection Act; and negligent supervision by CVMC.
CVMC is also alleged to be liable on the basis of respondeat
Coates and CVMC have each moved to dismiss the Complaint. Dr.
Coates argues that this case centers on paternity and is
governed by the Vermont Parentage Act. The Vermont Parentage
Act provides procedures for genetic testing, but prohibits
testing of an anonymous donor. Dr. Coates submits that the
statutory prohibition prevents the Rousseaus from proving
their case. He also contends that subject matter jurisdiction
is lacking under the domestic relations exception to
diversity jurisdiction. CVMC argues that the Complaint fails
to state a plausible claim that Dr. Coates was its employee
or agent, that it had no duty to supervise, and that it
cannot be held liable for his actions.
Rousseaus submit that the focus of this case is Dr.
Coates's fraudulent acts, that compliance with the
Vermont Parentage Act is therefore not required, and that the
domestic relations exception does not apply. In response to
CVMC's motion to dismiss, the Rousseaus argue that the
motion cannot be granted because it relies upon facts outside
Dr. Coates's Motions to Dismiss A. ...