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Prato-Morrison v. Doe

Court of Appeal of California
126 Cal.Rptr.2d 509 (2002)


Facts

Donna Prato-Morrison (plaintiff) and her husband, Robert, were patients at a fertility clinic at the University of California at Irvine’s (UCI) Center for Reproductive Health (CRH). The Morrisons entrusted CRH with eggs and sperm and hoped the resulting embryos would give them a child. The Morrisons never conceived and thereafter stopped seeking assistance at CRH and assumed that any remaining genetic material would be destroyed. Years later, UCI discovered that some of the eggs were taken from clinic patients without consent. Prato-Morrison learned that the CRH had “stolen” some of her eggs without her consent. Prato-Morrison filed suit against UCI, CRH, and the physicians involved in the “egg stealing”. During the course of settling the case, the Morrisons learned that CRH implanted their genetic material in Judith Doe who had given birth to twin daughters. The Morrisons filed suit against Judith and Jacob Doe (defendants) claiming they were the twins’ genetic parents and seeking custody of the girls. The Morrisons later abandoned their quest for custody and, instead, sought visitation and an order requiring all parties to undergo a blood test to confirm parentage. A hearing was set to determine the Morrisons’ right to obtain a DNA test and to have a mental health professional determine the appropriate amount of visitation. The Does asked that the Morrisons’ complaint be dismissed on the grounds that the Does were the presumed natural and legal parents under state law and the Morrisons lacked standing to compel DNA testing. The trial court granted the Does’ request and found that the Morrisons had failed to establish their status as “interested parties.” However, the court continued the matter to allow the Morrisons to gather and present supporting evidence to establish standing. The Morrisons submitted a declaration and handwritten list from Teri Ord, a fertility biologist, stating that nonconsensual transfers of genetic material occurred at UCI and some of Prato-Morrison’s eggs were transplanted into Judith Doe. The Does objected to the document as hearsay without an applicable exception as well as a violation of their right to patient-physician confidentiality. The trial court agreed and dismissed the Morrisons’ complaint. The Morrisons appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Vogel, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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