Friday Legal Updates – Fertilty & Insurance, Kansas Agency, Baby Scammer, Embryo Dispute, Custody Battle & NY Same Sex Bill

Yes! It is finally Friday, and I am ready for the weekend. Remember, it is less than two weeks to our conference in Switzerland. Alot of updates this week, so enjoy….

1. California – The District Court of Appeal has thrown out an appeal by a woman struggling to conceive a chiled via IVF. She was challenging the limited coverage provided for fertility treatment by her employer’s group health care plan. InYeager v. Blue Cross of California, she alleged causes of action for unfair competition and false advertising. Although the employer chose not to offer $2000.00 of infertility coverage, Yeager went after Blue Cross for these above reasons, including stating that the $2000.00 offered by BC does not constitute coverage under the statute.

2. Kansas – Clients say that a surrogacy agency in Kansas has kept their money. “The owner of the agency, Michelle Faulkenberry, stopped returning calls from Winters and the couple, and stopped reimbursing Winters for her expenses, Winters said.

Court documents, interviews with clients and surrogates and an affidavit by a Wichita Police Department detective show complaints dating to 2001 that Faulkenberry dipped into clients’ escrow accounts — money meant to cover medical bills and other expenses — for her own use. Faulkenberry declined to comment for this story. Her agency, Alternative Family Building, was the second surrogate agency that Faulkenberry had started and closed, court records show.Unlike 29 other states that have some laws regarding surrogacy — most of which void paid contracts — Kansas does not regulate such agencies.”

In fact, the article continues with this: “Looking back, Mike said there were signs that Alternative Family Building might not have been as legitimate as some other agencies. For one, he said, Alternative Family Building’s fees were much lower. “The fees were low enough that I figured it was worth the risk,” he said.

3. Chicago, IL – Day in court for accused baby dreams scammer – A 31-year-old Chicago woman is accused of using the Internet to take advantage of desperate people.–baby-dreams-scammer/4791361

WBBM’s Steve Miller has the story of that woman – and the people who believe she should be put away forever.

Her name is Teandrea Watson, and she has billed herself as a surrogate mother. A beauty pageant queen. A graphic designer. Others say Watson robbed them of their dreams – after she signed a contract to be a surrogate mother.

Teandrea Watson appears in court today, accused of cheating that man from Maryland, and his wife, out of money – and a baby they so desperately wanted.

4. Ohio – Embryo Dispute detailed in Lawsuit – Lori Johnson was excited about trying to have her third child and ecstatic that Montgomery’s Bonnie Bernard would help.

Bernard operates a company called Embryos Alive out of her Pfeiffer Road home that links embryo donors with people like Johnson, an infertile Texas wife. “It seemed like one of those things that was too good to be true,” Johnson said. Initially impressed by Embryos Alive, Johnson eventually came to feel she was bullied by a “callous” Bernard.

A lawsuit filed by Johnson in Hamilton County – against Embryos Alive, Bonnie Bernard, her husband, Gary Bernard, and another relative, Scott Hasselring – accuses Bernard of turning on Johnson after she challenged what she considered improper procedures by the company.

“I felt taken advantage of,” Johnson said. “People who suffer from infertility have a painful and costly journey. To have someone give you hope and then take your money in exchange for that hope … is definitely salt in the wounds.” Johnson alleges Bernard and Embryos Alive defamed her with false postings on the Embryos Alive online support group board, breach of contract and consumers sales laws, fraud and misrepresentation.

5. Florida – Two Gay Couples Fight over Custody of Child -“Two dads face off against two moms. It’s perhaps the most unique custody battle in recent Florida history and maybe the most radical verdict. Katherine and her eight-year partner, Ana Sobrino, decided to have a baby about a half-decade ago. Again and again, they tried using sperm from anonymous donors. But Katherine — a driven real estate agent then in her late 30s — couldn’t get pregnant.

Enter their close friend, Ray, a handsome, gay Air Force veteran.

After some casual negotiation, he donated and Katherine conceived. In August 2006, a sweet and burbling baby whom we’ll call Austin was born. Katherine put Ray’s name on the birth certificate because she wanted the child to know his dad’s identity – That turns out to be a big mistake.

The baby was raised mostly by Katherine and Ana at their NE 24th Street home, but Ray and his partner Craig also spent time with the boy. “[Ray] made it clear he wanted to be involved in the child’s life,” a counselor later wrote. He took Austin to baby music lessons. Sometimes the child would sleep over at his “da-da’s” apartment overlooking a canal. Then, last fall, the mothers decided to move to California, and things got ugly.

Ray sued Katherine in November 2008. The case tells the story of two sets of gay parents — all of them loving and active in the child’s life — vying for custody. “Responsibility for the child should be awarded to the mother and father equally,” Ray demanded in the suit. “[I am] the natural father.”

After considering arguments from both sides, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Leon Firtel on June 3 found Ray was nothing more than a sperm donor. Because there was no contract before birth, he had “no rights.” Says Ray’s attorney, “[The ruling] is the most tragic of my career, and I will not rest until Ray is reunited with his son.”

Opposing council responds that Ray surrendered his role when he let the mothers become primary caregivers: “Ray has changed his mind about his parental role… Katherine and Ana feel like their family unit is being attacked.” A motion for reconsideration is scheduled in circuit court this week.

6. New York – Gov. Paterson will delay his plan to force a vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage until early September because the Senate is too unsettled now to take it up, his spokesman said on Friday.

“Governor Paterson believes that marriage equality is an important civil rights issue and will be working with Senate leaders to move the process forward,” said the spokesman, Peter E. Kauffmann, adding that the governor was more immediately focused on the state’s dwindling tax revenues. Mr. Kauffmann said the governor would probably call a special legislative session in early September so lawmakers could close an anticipated hole in the state’s budget.

7. Canada – Adoption Agency’s Bankruptcy strands families – An Ontario agency specializing in adoptions from Africa has gone bankrupt, leaving scores of families across Canada disappointed and in financial debt. Kids Link, which operates as the Imagine adoption agency in Cambridge, put up a bankruptcy notice on their website on Monday to inform their roster of more than 200 clients of their financial difficulties.

An official with the Waterloo Regional Police fraud department told that he has received many calls from clients of the agency who are worried that their money was stolen.”I can tell you it’s not a criminal investigation,” said Sgt. Robert Zensner. “We are not investigating anyone in the company or anyone linked to the agency.” He said that could change once BDO completes their review of the agency’s books. “If they find any criminality than they would contact us but we have to wait for their review,” he said. “At this point, we’re hands off.”

That’s it! Have a great weekend.

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