Woman Awarded Over $5 Million 45 Years After Vermont Doctor Used His Own Sperm to Impregnate Her

A jury awarded Cheryl Rousseau $5.25 million after a doctor used his own sperm during an artificial insemination procedure

Embryo selection for IVF, light micrograph
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A woman whose doctor used his sperm to impregnate her has been awarded $5.25 million.

A jury in a Vermont federal court returned the verdict on Wednesday, a day after beginning deliberations, awarding Cheryl Rousseau $250,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages from Dr. John Coates of Vermont, who had clandestinely used his own sperm during an artificial insemination procedure in 1977, according to USA Today.

Per court documents seen by PEOPLE, Coates had "agreed to artificially inseminate" Cheryl with "genetic material from an unnamed medical student." However, in 2018, Cheryl and her husband, Peter Rousseau, found out that Coates is "the biological father of their now-grown daughter."

Cheryl and Peter discovered Coates was the biological father after their daughter began learning more about her father via DNA testing, USA Today reported.

The Rousseaus sued for breach of contract, fraud, battery, and battery, according to an earlier opinion issued by the court. An additional claim alleging violation of the Vermont Consumer Protection Act was dismissed before trial.

Peter was later removed from the lawsuit — before it went to the jury — following a judge's ruling that he didn't prove he suffered damages, according to USA Today.

Cheryl's attorney Celeste Laramie told the news outlet that the jury awarded the amount she asked for after determining Coates' conduct was "wrongful and offensive."

"The jury through its punitive damages verdict sent a message to any physicians who might think about lying to their patients or using their own semen to inseminate their patients," she added. "Such behavior will have serious consequences."

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Laramie did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Peter Joslin, the attorney for Coates, tells PEOPLE, "We were surprised and disappointed with the verdict."

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Joslin did not share whether Coates — whose medical license was permanently revoked by the Vermont Medical Practice Board last month — are going to appeal the verdict, per USA Today.

Coates is facing a similar lawsuit from a Colorado woman, who alleges the doctor used his own sperm during an artificial insemination procedure in 1978, CBS News reports. The case is pending in U.S. District Court in Vermont.

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