This Week In Torts: A Compendium Of Tort-Related News Ripped From Today’s Headlines!

31 August 2018

Who’s Your Daddy?

The New York Times is reporting that Dr. Donald Cline fathered many, many children, while running a fertility clinic in Indianapolis during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Many couples sought Dr. Cline out at his Indianapolis-area fertility clinic during the 1970s and ’80s. They had children, who grew up and had children of their own.
What the couples did not know was that on an untold number of occasions, Dr. Cline was not using the sperm of anonymous donors.
He was using his own.
Now, Dr. Cline’s former patients and their children are asking enormously consequential questions: How many women did he deceive? How many children did he father? Most perplexingly, why did he do it?

The full, and mystifying, story is here: Zaveri, M., “A Fertility Doctor Used His Sperm on Unwitting Women. Their Children Want Answers,” NY Times, August 30, 2018.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Were these acts – Dr. Cline repeatedly using his own sperm instead of the sperm of anonymous donors – tortious?
  • Who was injured?
  • How?
  • What legal remedy is or should be available?

The Race to the Top

Asian-Americans have sued Harvard, alleging that Harvard discriminates “against Asian-Americans in admissions by imposing a penalty for their high achievement and giving preferences to other racial minorities.”

The Harvard case asserts that the university’s admissions process amounts to an illegal quota system, in which roughly the same percentage of African-Americans, Hispanics, whites and Asian-Americans have been admitted year after year, despite fluctuations in application rates and qualifications.

“It falls afoul of our most basic civil rights principles, and those principles are that your race and your ethnicity should not be something to be used to harm you in life nor help you in life,” said Edward Blum, the president of Students for Fair Admissions, the organization that is suing Harvard.

Hartocollis, A., and Saul, S.  “Affirmative Action Battle Has a New Focus: Asian-Americans“. NY Times, August 2, 2017.

The lawsuit, brought by an anti-affirmative-action group called Students for Fair Admissions, has revived the national debate over race-conscious admissions, which is playing out from colleges down to elementary schools.

The debate goes back to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. The assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 was a turning point, pushing colleges to redouble their efforts to be more representative of American society.

But Asians were an overlooked minority despite a long history of discrimination. As late as 1976, Harvard did not recognize them as a minority group and barred them from a freshman minority orientation banquet. They had a kind of neither-nor identity, denied both the solidarity of other students of color and the social standing of white people.

Hartocollis, A., Harmon, A.  and Smith, M. “‘Lopping,’ ‘Tips’ and the ‘Z-List’: Bias Lawsuit Explores Harvard’s Admissions Secrets,” NY Times, August 30, 2018.

Following Up

In April, we noted that several families had sued popular radio host, and “right-wing conspiracy theorist” Alex Jones, for his repeated claims that  shooting of schoolchildren in Sandy Hook Connecticut was ‘completely fake’ and a ‘giant hoax’ perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment.”  The families of the murdered children sued Alex Jones for defamation.  The tort of defamation is “the offense of injuring a person’s character, fame or reputation by false and malicious statements.”  Black’s Law Dictionary, De Luxe Fourth Ed. (1951).

At the time, we noted that

We will have to see how this lawsuit plays out in court.  There is, after all, a right of free speech in the country, guaranteed in the Bill of rights.  But it is well-established that there are limits to that speech – You can’t falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, for example.  Did Jones act maliciously? Will he and the staff at Infowars fight this lawsuit, or settle?

Newman, R.  “When Madness Walked the Earth,” April, 2018, Director’s Cut, American Museum of Tort Law.

Well, so far, Jones is fighting. And losing.

On Thursday, a Texas Judge denied Jones’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  “’After considering the arguments of counsel and the record, including plaintiffs’ declarations filed on August 2, the court ORDERS that defendants’ motion is in all respects DENIED,’ the court filing said.”  Murdock, S., “Alex Jones Fails To Stop Sandy Hook Parents’ Defamation Case,” Huffington Post, August 30, 2018.  As a result, Jones will have to continue to defend himself against these claims. We will continue to continue to follow up.

Legal Question of the Week

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