Court: No Liability for Selling Sperm of Donor With Mental Illness, Criminal Past

James Christian Aggeles learned he could sell more of his sperm if he lied about his educational achievements.

So he became a sperm donor and claimed he was a Ph.D candidate with an IQ of 160. Rene and Trayce Zelt bought it, literally.

In Zelt v. Xytex Corporation, it came out that Aggeles had dropped out of college, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and had a felony conviction.

Wrongful Birth

The Zelts sued Xytex Corporation for misrepresenting the characteristics of "Donor #9623, who turned out to be Aggeles. The company didn't do any background check before selling his sperm.

The couple found out the truth after they had two children using the sperm donor. They made various claims in the Northern District of Georgia, but a trial judge dismissed their case because there is no wrongful birth claim in Georgia.

On appeal, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The panel said it was "deeply troubled" by the allegations, but the Georgia Supreme Court held that wrongful birth claims are not actionable in Atlanta Obstetrics & Gynecology Grp. v. Abelson.

It wasn't the first times parents had been turned down for wrongful birth. But the Eleventh Circuit harshly criticized Xytex for its "reckless, reprehensible, and repugnant" actions.

"Reckless, Reprehensible, and Repugnant"

The appeals panel said the company's conduct "undoubtedly caused severe emotional harm" to the plaintiffs and other families who purchased Donor #9623's sperm. But, the judges said, their hands were tied.

They said the Georgia courts or the legislature may decide to recognize wrongful birth claims or claims for the wrongful and fraudulent sale of sperm.

"Until the State has done so, however, we cannot recognize as a private legal injury the birth of a child with actual or potential undesirable inherited characteristics."

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