GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — A jury has awarded $8.75 million to families who alleged a former Grand Junction doctor lied to his patients and used his own sperm to impregnate more than a dozen women using artificial insemination decades ago.
In the lawsuit, filed in 2019, Maia Emmons-Boring, her sister Tahnee Scott and their mother Cheryl Emmons alleged Dr. Paul Brennan Jones of Grand Junction lied to Emmons when, in the early 1980s, he told her he would use anonymous sperm donations during separate rounds of artificial insemination.
The jury found Jones and his former practice, now called Women's Health Care of Western Colorado, liable for negligence and fraud, among other claims.
"It hasn't quite set in yet," Emmons-Boring told 9NEWS Wednesday. "It's a lot to take in. We've been working -- this has been ongoing for three years, and to finally have some sort of resolution is huge. We're excited. We're happy. We're relieved. We feel vindicated."
Cheryl Emmons met Jones in Grand Junction in the late 1970s. At the time, she wanted nothing more than to be a mother, but there was a problem. Her husband had recently gone through a difficult bout with testicular cancer, and the two were worried they’d simply remain unable to conceive.
She says Jones assured her he would use an anonymous sperm donation. At the time, freezing sperm – while possible – wasn’t exactly commonplace. Instead, doctors would frequently rely on “fresh samples” given maybe 30 minutes before the mother’s visit.
“[Jones] said there were medical students, you know, at St. Mary’s [Medical Center], and so, anyway, one thing led to another and we said, ‘OK,’” Emmons told 9NEWS in 2019.
In 1980, Emmons gave birth to Maia. Jones even helped deliver the baby girl.
Five years later, after assisting the family with artificial insemination once again, Jones returned to help deliver Maia’s sister Tahnee.
In 2020, Emmons-Boring said she believed 16 people, born between 1976 and 1997, were the product of Jones’ actions. There are now 17 known children.
Several of the half-siblings discovered each other through DNA testing on Ancestry.com and 23andme.com.
When 9NEWS spoke to Jones in 2019, he would not confirm or deny that he was the children's father. He admitted to it at the trial.
"We had DNA proof, but the words never came from him up until this trial," Emmons-Boring said.
Case prompts new law
Jones received his license to practice medicine in Colorado on July 11, 1972. Facing a review of his conduct by the Colorado Medical Board, he voluntarily relinquished that license in November 2019.
The case never triggered a criminal investigation, because what the jury found Jones did in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s was not a criminal act under Colorado law at the time.
In 2020, Colorado legislators passed a bill to turn future cases of so-called fertility fraud into a crime.
“I’m really proud of Maia and her family because we couldn’t have done it without them,” Rep. Kerry Tipper, who cosponsored the legislation in the Colorado House, said at the time.
The legislation made it a felony for a health care provider in Colorado to use their own sperm or eggs for a donation, unless the patient gives written consent. It also makes it easier for offspring to sue.
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