While lawyers and judges are the ultimate legal experts, of course, I believe that every citizen should take the time to learn a little about law for several reasons. First, it is important to know your rights, and knowing them can come in handy if anyone ever accuses you of a crime you didn't commit or threatens you legally in another other way. Second, learning about your local, state, and federal laws can help you act as a better citizen. When election time comes around, you can then truly understand ever change in law being proposed by a candidate and whether it benefits society or not. I plan to share posts about law topics explained in plain English on my new blog, so you can come back often to sharpen your legal knowledge!
Marriage requires a certain amount of honesty, especially about something as serious as whether or not one wants to or can have children. Lack of honesty in this area can have dire consequences for a person's relationship and checkbook. If someone lies about or fails to disclose that he or she had a reproductive sterilization procedure when asked, that person could be sued for fraud.
Most of the time when couples go to court over reproductive fraud issues it's for failing to take proper precautions to prevent pregnancy. For instance, in 1998, a man sued his ex-girlfriend for breach of contract because he said she didn't take her birth control pills as per their agreement to avoid bringing children into the relationship.
Courts have also handled cases involving the theft and unauthorized use of sperm to induce pregnancy. A Louisiana man is currently suing his ex-girlfriend who he claims used his sperm without his authorization to get pregnant. The woman allegedly convinced a sperm bank to give her the man's deposit and then had herself artificially inseminated. The case is ongoing.
However, men and women can also land themselves in court by failing to disclose their inability to have children or produce children. A woman won an award of $305,000 in 2004 after suing her ex-husband for not telling her he'd had a vasectomy. The woman alleges she and her ex-spouse discussed having children prior to getting married in 1996. Despite all attempts, the couple was unable to conceive. It wasn't until 2001 that she found out the reason was because the man had the sterilization procedure done in 1994. This led her to sue for misrepresentation and the jury took her side.
Elements of Fraud
To successfully prove fraud occurred, several elements must be true:
Failure to prove even one of these elements can lead to a court loss. For instance, you have to prove the person knew he or she had been sterilized and when this information was conveyed to the individual. This may seem like the easiest part of your case, but there have been incidents where people were sterilized without their knowledge or consent.
Another tricky area is proving you were harmed by the person's failure to disclose he or she could not impregnate or conceive. In the case where the woman sued her husband for not telling her about his vasectomy, one reason she prevailed was because his ability to father children factored into her decision to marry him. She relied on his statement to her detriment (i.e. she spent many of her childbearing years married to him and incurred some financial costs as well).
In some cases, the harm may not be as clear cut. For instance, if you talk about having kids but delayed attempting to conceive, it may be difficult to convince the court that harm was done since you did not actually attempt to complete a "transaction" with the person.
People should be free to make the reproductive choices that are best for them. At the same time, failure to advise a relationship partner of an inability to conceive or impregnate can lead to unnecessary emotional and financial pain. If you find yourself in this situation, contact a personal injury attorney for advice and assistance.