A second lawsuit involving new plaintiffs is expected in the case of a Grand Junction fertility doctor accused of using his own sperm to impregnate patients.
Dr. Paul Jones, whose medical license was issued in 1972 and remains active to this day, according to Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies records, has at least two children from patients he cared for, the first lawsuit filed Monday alleges. That discovery, first reported by KUSA in Denver, may just be the beginning for Jones and his patients.
Denver attorney Patrick Fitz-Gerald, who represents the defendants in the civil suit filed Monday, believes what Jones is accused of doing is something the Grand Junction community should take very seriously. "This could really impact the community," he said. "Anyone who visited (Dr. Jones) go and get a DNA test."
Mesa County Public Health reported it has no role at this time as it relates to impacts on county residents.
One of Fitz-Gerald's clients in the case, a patient of Jones's from around 1973 to 1988, is said to have received multiple artificial insemination prodecures from Jones during that time, resulting in children born in 1980 and 1985. Now those two children, along with the woman and her husband, are suing Jones after DNA test results reportedly revealed he is the children's biological father.
Aside from confirming they are aware of the lawsuit filed in Mesa County on Monday, Women's Health Care of Western Colorado, named as a defendant in Monday's lawsuit, had no further comment.
Jones is listed as a founding physician of Women's Health Care of Western Colorado on the organization's website.
Jones had privileges at St. Mary's but wasn't affiliated with the hospital system.
"St. Mary's has been made aware of the legal action involving Dr. Paul Brennan Jones. Dr. Jones is not and has never been employed by St. Mary's Medical Center," according to a statement from St. Mary's. "As with many non-employed, community-based physicians who may need to provide hospital-based services at St. Mary's, he had privileges to provide those services as necessary."
The plaintiff's confusion, anger and disgust over the results, which Fitz-Gerald said were confirmed with a local genealogist, does not appear to be limited to just one family.
A second lawsuit, which could be filed in Mesa County District Court as early as Friday, comes from a mother and her daughter. Their Denver attorney, Paula Greisen, said the mother also used Jones' fertility clinic more than 30 years ago.
Since taking the case, Greisen said she has learned that there could be as many as 11 other victims, and possibly more.
"The daughter started getting contacted by other children who were born using this same fertility doctor, and it turns out that they are related," Greisen said. "Right now, I believe there are 11 children who have traced back to Dr. Jones. It's over a 19-year time period, so the belief is he was doing this for a pretty significant period of time."
The identities of the mother and daughter are being withheld to protect the mother's privacy because she still lives in a small Western Slope town where she is well known, and Greisen said she plans to ask whatever judge who gets the case to shield her identity as much as possible.
Similar to Monday's lawsuit filed against Jones, the daughter said she learned that her true father is Jones the same way the victims did in the first case — through a genealogy website.
Needless to say, she was shocked.
"I was pretty horrified, just the fact that a doctor could have my mom in the office at a time that was super vulnerable for her, and abused his power to perform a procedure that she didn't consent to," she said. "Then you start questioning a lot of things. If my biological father is capable of doing this, what does that mean for me? It's a huge shock to the system, that's for sure."
Monday's lawsuit alleges Jones explained to his patient and her husband that he would use "fresh" sperm from a donor who was in good health and was either a medical or law student. It is now clear to the family that instead of an anonymous donor's sperm, as agreed, he used his own, the lawsuit claims.
"Instead of using 'fresh' sperm from an anonymous donor during these procedures, Jones used his own 'fresh' sperm to artificially inseminate the plaintiff," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit makes several claims for relief, including medical negligence, lack of informed consent, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, battery and extreme and outrageous conduct.
According to the 21st District Attorney's Office, nothing has been referred to the office for review on this case. To District Attorney Dan Rubinstein's knowledge, the plaintiff has not made any report to law enforcement.
According to Rubinstein, the general statute of limitations for misdemeanors is 18 months and for felonies is three years. However, certain crimes have exceptions, one being that for certain limited crimes, the statute of limitations is based upon the date of discovery.
Asked about filing criminal charges, Fitz-Gerald said the decision to make the lawsuit a civil case had mainly to do with the limitations of current law.
"My feelings are, this particular conduct is not adequately covered in the current law," he said.
He said he has been and will continue to be in contact with the state Legislature to see if that can be addressed.
Fitz-Gerald compared the situation to when the internet was first introduced and widely used and the fact it took several years for the law to catch up.
As with any lawsuit, he feels his clients should be entitled to civil damages as a result of this case, but will also demand recognition of the DNA test from Jones himself. "We want the doctor to acknowledge what he's done," he added.
For the daughter, the results of the DNA tests may not be something she will ever completely get over.
The daughter said she also has an older sister who was conceived through artificial insemination at Jones's clinic, but has yet to get a DNA test to see if Jones also is her biological father. Greisen and the daughter said that sister was only recently told about the issue and is mulling what to do.
"We didn't originally tell her about all of this until it started to go to the press. Then I felt she needed to know," she said. "She hasn't decided yet whether she wants genetic testing or not. Whatever her decision is, I respect it. I'm not entirely sure I would have done Ancestry.com again knowing what I know now."
The daughter said she works in the genealogy field, which is what prompted her to go to Ancestry.com. Her experience in that field made her question the results she got back, saying it made little sense. At the time, she knew her mother had used a fertility clinic, but wasn't told her biological father was someone other than the man she thought was her father, who died when she was young.
Almost immediately afterwards the daughter said she was contacted by two other women through the Ancestry website who said they were related to her. Later, she was contacted by several others.
"It hasn't really set in for me yet," she said. "I'm mostly just numb at this point. It's like having an identity crisis because I'm not really sure who I am."
A bigger question for the daughter, and one of the main reasons why she's suing, is to gain access to Jones's medical history, because of how it may affect her.
She said she's already had to inform her primary care physician that everything she's reported about her family's medical background, at least on her father's side, is no longer valid.
A few years ago, for example, she learned that she has the gene that carries cystic fibrosis, something that isn't traced to any known relative. Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections.
Greisen said neither she nor the daughter have spoken to law enforcement or any prosecutors about the matter, but would "fully cooperate" if such an investigation were to be launched.
Greisen, who also is the plaintiff's attorney in an unrelated age discrimination case against Mesa County, said the lawsuit likely will ask for monetary damages, but the point of it is more about accountability.
"Certainly monetary compensation for what they're suffering is one remedy, but holding him accountable for engaging in this huge violation of trust is the primary goal of coming forward," Greisen said. "These children have the right to know, and if he won't voluntarily disclose that information, then victims have no choice but to seek justice through the court system."