HOUSTON, Texas — A Texas jury trial involving an ex-girlfriend who went to a sperm bank and “stole” her ex-boyfriend’s sperm has concluded with a huge judgment against her and a fertility center. The sperm was in the sperm bank pursuant to the man’s contract with another woman.
The man and the woman sued the “sperm thief” and the fertility center after they inseminated her with the sperm and she bore a child. The lawsuit may be the first of its kind in Texas.
Layne Hardin sued the fertility center and a doctor in Houston, Texas, after they released his stored sperm to his ex-girlfriend. He and Katherine LeBlanc, the woman with whom he had a contract with the fertility center to store the sperm, also sued the ex-girlfriend, Tobie Devall.
The lawyer for Hardin told the Houston Chronicle that he has never heard of a lawsuit involving similar facts in Texas. He told the media outlet, “We’re approaching a time where reproductive technology is outpacing the law.” He called the lawsuit, “a historic case.”
According to the written agreement with the fertility center, LeBlanc would hold the decisional power over the sperm in the event of Hardin’s death or the couple’s break-up or divorce. The frozen sperm would be discarded in the event of both of their deaths.
LeBlanc and Hardin ended their relationship in February 2006. At that point Devall and Hardin became “domestic partners” according to pleadings filed with the court.
Devall and Hardin later consulted with the fertility doctor about Devall’s chances of getting pregnant by insemination. Hardin said that Devall continued to consult the fertility doctor without him being present.
Hardin claims in his lawsuit that “At no time did Layne give written agreement to the insemination of Tobie Devall with his sperm.”
He claims that between January 2009 and October 20, 2009, Hardin and Devall were no longer domestic partners and were dating other people. He said they stopped dating altogether on October 20, 2009.
Devall dropped the fact that she was pregnant on Hardin on November 19, 2009, less than a month after they broke-up.
She said she was inseminated six days after they broke up, on October 26, 2009.
Devall’s pregnancy was confirmed by a pregnancy test in December 2009. Hardin immediately called the doctor’s nurse and she confirmed that two vials had been used to inseminate his ex-girlfriend Devall.
Devall gave birth to a baby boy in July of 2010.
Hardin and LeBlanc said that Devall never contacted them for their consent.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the attorney for the ex-girlfriend told jurors during opening argument, “There is going to be a lot of juicy gossip, a lot of whispering.” He continued, “Pay attention to the facts. This is a court of law, not a gossip circle.”
Devall counter-sued Hardin but admitted in her counterclaim that “At the time of the cryopreservation of the afore-described eight (8) vials of sperm, Layne Hardin was in a relationship with Katherine LeBlanc.”
Devall also admitted that “At this time of this cryopreservation, Layne Hardin signed an agreement with West Houston Fertility Center, that in the event of the dissolution of his relationship with Katherine LeBlanc, decisional authority of the eight (8) vials of cryopreserved sperm at West Houston Fertility Center would be placed with Katherine LeBlanc.”
Devall alleged in her court filings that LeBlanc and Hardin later ended their relationship and Hardin began one with her. She claims that Hardin told her she could use the sperm to become pregnant because Hardin had undergone a vasectomy. She says the couple began searching for a fertility specialist who could inseminate her with his sperm from the sperm bank.
Devall claimed that at no-time did Hardin tell the fertility center that his former girlfriend LeBlanc “had decisional authority of said sperm.”
The ex-girlfriend also admitted that she underwent intrauterine insemination with two vials of the cryopreserved sperm in October of 2009 but she claimed that Hardin had full knowledge of this procedure.
Devall counter-sued her ex-boyfriend for fraudulent and intentional misrepresentation for allegedly intentionally misrepresenting that “he had ownership, control, or otherwise decisional authority of the sperm used by Tobie Devall.”
The jury deliberated most of the day on Friday but came back with a large award.
The jury awarded both Hardin and LeBlanc $250,000 from the fertility clinic.
A judgment against Devall for mental anguish in the amount of $125,000 was also awarded.
Cade Bernsen, the lawyer for Layne Hardin told the Houston Chronicle, “This is a great day. The jury has spoken.”
Bernsen also said, “We hope this sends a message to the industry. They have to properly secure (the samples) and protect it.”
Although Hardin, LeBland, and Devall all currently live in Sulphur, Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana, Hardin says Devall “refuses to include Layne, the biological father, in the child’s life.”
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served Texas as a prosecutor and an associate judge. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2