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Suit over 'stolen' semen may be unprecedented

A Harris County civil court jury may have broken some new legal ground last week in a case that likely will have some significant implications for family law in Texas.

At the heart of the case were two claims made by a Louisiana man. First, the man said that an ex-girlfriend had in essence stolen frozen sperm specimens he had on deposit with a Texas fertility center. Second, he accused the center of breach of contract because it inseminated the woman with the sperm without his consent. The woman went on to have a child who is now five years old.

That contract had been entered into back in 2002 between the center, the man and his girlfriend at the time. They had a 2-year-old child at the time and thought they might want more children. So before he had a vasectomy, he stored some semen in the clinic sperm bank. That couple broke up and the man became involved with the woman named in the suit in an on-again, off-again relationship starting in 2006.

According to the suit, the original contract called for the first girlfriend to retain control of the samples in the event of a split. If the two of them died, the samples were to be discarded. But in 2010, the clinic allegedly allowed the second girlfriend to claim a portion of the sample without authorization.

The case came to trial last week and on Friday, the jury deliberated just six hours before coming back with a verdict in favor of the man and the first girlfriend. The panel ordered the clinic to pay each of the plaintiffs $250,000. The second girlfriend was found guilty of the allegations against her and has been ordered to pay damages to the couple.

The attorney for the plaintiffs says he's not aware of any case like this before.

Family law issues are as varied as the individuals who are affected by them. When difficult questions surface, it's advisable to seek the help of an experienced attorney.

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