Robertson v. SaadatAnnotate this Case
Under California law, the donor's intent controls the disposition of his or her gametic material upon death. Plaintiff appealed the trial court's judgment sustaining demurrers to her causes of action alleged against defendants. After plaintiff's husband entered into an irreversible coma, she arranged to extract his sperm in hopes of one day conceiving a child with it. Plaintiff stored the sperm in a tissue bank that ultimately came under the control of defendants, and, ten years later, when she requested the sperm, defendants disclosed that they could not locate it. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging contract and tort claims based on the loss of her ability to have a child biologically related to her deceased husband.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding that the complaint failed to adequately plead facts supporting tort damages. In this case, plaintiff's tort causes of action are all premised on the loss of her ability to conceive with her deceased husband's sperm. However, the court held that the complaint failed to allege facts establishing that plaintiff was legally entitled to use her husband's sperm to conceive a child after he died. In this case, plaintiff's status as his spouse did not entitle her to conceive with his sperm; absent an affirmative showing that the husband intended to allow plaintiff to conceive with his sperm, plaintiff was not entitled to do so; and thus the complaint failed to allege that it was the husband's intent that his sperm be used for posthumous conception. Finally, the court held that plaintiff cannot recover emotional distress damages on her breach of contract cause of action.