Case dismissed against retired Idaho Falls doctor who used his own sperm to inseminate patient
IDAHO FALLS — The case against a retired Idaho Falls gynecologist who used his own sperm to inseminate a woman has been dropped.
Last week, just weeks before the trial of Dr. Gerald Mortimer was scheduled to begin, the court dismissed the case with prejudice – meaning the case is permanently over.
It’s not clear exactly why the case was dismissed after three years, however, generally, if a judge agrees to dismiss a case at such a late stage, it is because an out-of-court settlement between the parties has been reached. Settlement agreements are not open to the public.
Mortimer admitted to using his own sperm to inseminate several of his patients after one of his former clients, Sally Ashby, and her daughter, Kelli Rowlette, filed a lawsuit against him in 2018. Ashby sought Mortimer for fertility treatments in 1980, when she and her then-husband, Howard Fowler, struggled to conceive naturally.
Their daughter, Rowlette, was born in 1981. The couple believed Rowlette to be their biological daughter for decades until Rowlette submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com. The website confirmed Rowlette and Mortimer’s DNA to be a parent-child match.
“How violated I felt by the doctor, knowing what he had done, and that he continued to see her (Rowlette) every appointment that we had when I was pregnant for Nick (Rowlette’s half-brother). And I was in a state of shock for quite a while,” Ashby said in a video deposition recorded in August 2018.
Rowlette also expressed her shock and outrage in court documents.
“I thought the test was incomplete or wrong,” Rowlette stated in her deposition. “I thought it was impossible.”
Once the pre-trial proceeding began, Mortimer initially denied his paternal connection to Rowlette, but eventually admitted to using his own sperm to inseminate patients, including Ashby.
“I was ashamed,” Mortimer said in a 2018 deposition. “I regret the fact that I was a sperm donor; that I did those things in the past. I guess I feel bad about that. I wish I hadn’t done it.”
Prior to the dismissal, the case looked favorable for Rowlette and Ashby. After nearly three years of litigation, in January 2021, the court ruled in Rowlette’s favor on several key motions, including Dr. Mortimer’s motion for summary judgment in his favor and Rowlette’s request to allow the jury to consider punitive damages.
Judge Nye, in his order responding to the motion, wrote, “here there is substantial evidence to support submitting the issue of punitive damages to the jury.”
Although one court document remains sealed, the dismissal with prejudice was filed on April 28 and granted on April 30. It appears to have been stipulated to by both parties. The document stated in part, “The above-captioned parties, by and through their respective counsel of record … hereby stipulate that this matter be dismissed with prejudice, with each party to bear their own costs and attorneys’ fees.”
In the court’s response, Judge Nye granted the motion to dismiss and close the case “based upon the stipulation of the parties, and good cause appearing therefor.”
EastIdahoNews.com contacted Rowlette’s attorney for comment but our messages were not returned.