Advertisement

Surrogate in Custody Case Sues Her Doctor, Hospital

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Surrogate mother Anna L. Johnson has filed a $5-million lawsuit alleging that the doctor who implanted her with a couple’s embryo, as well as those who arranged her surrogacy contract, were negligent and caused her severe emotional distress, Johnson’s attorney said Saturday.

“No doctor should ever have permitted her to be a surrogate,” attorney Richard C. Gilbert said. “She is one of the last people on earth who should be a surrogate.”

Gilbert alleges that Johnson was completely unprepared for surrogacy, that she had undergone “less than an hour” of psychological counseling and that her doctor was aware of her four previous miscarriages and stillbirths when he implanted her with the embryo.

The civil suit was filed Friday in Orange County Superior Court. None of those named were available Saturday for comment.

Advertisement

However, the baby’s father, Mark Calvert, who is not named in the suit, said Saturday that Johnson had misrepresented herself and withheld key information during the screening.

Calvert said he and his wife, Crispina, would never have contracted with Johnson if they had been aware of her medical and personal history.

“Anna Johnson got herself into this situation by not being candid, and for her to allege that any other individual was a participant in her omissions is ludicrous,” Calvert said.

After she was impregnated with a baby boy created from the Calverts’ egg and sperm, Johnson said she had become bonded to the child and sued to keep the baby. In October, Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard N. Parslow Jr. ruled that the Calverts are the only legitimate parents and awarded them sole custody. Gilbert has vowed to appeal.

Advertisement

Johnson’s lawsuit names Dr. Ricardo Asch and his Center for Reproductive Health in Garden Grove, where the implant was performed, as well as William Handle, owner of the Center for Surrogacy Parenting in Beverly Hills, who allegedly referred the Calverts to Asch, Gilbert said.

The suit accuses Asch of “battery” in performing the procedure when Johnson was not fully informed of her legal situation and thus unable to give her informed consent.

Asch was out of the country Saturday. Calvert, however, said that Johnson had falsely stated that she had been screened and accepted as a surrogate by Handle and that she had failed to report her miscarriages, which would have disqualified her.

“If Dr. Asch had been aware of one miscarriage or stillbirth, he would not have done the procedure,” Calvert said.

Advertisement

Also named in the suit is Wendy Leitner, who allegedly “was selected by William Handle, purportedly to act as Anna Johnson’s attorney in the surrogacy contract,” Gilbert said.

Although Johnson spoke with Leitner on the telephone, “Anna Johnson has never met Wendy Leitner, never hired her and never paid her any money,” Gilbert said.

Leitner was chosen and paid $300 by the Calverts, he added.

The suit accuses Leitner of legal malpractice because “she failed to properly advise Anna about the legal ramifications of this (surrogacy) contract,” Gilbert said. “Anna was led to believe she had the right to change her mind and keep the baby.”

Advertisement

Also named is UCI Medical Center in Orange, where Johnson was hospitalized during her pregnancy. Gilbert alleged that the hospital failed to hand over to Johnson court papers related to her suit, which were served on her while she was a patient for two days, until the hospital’s own attorneys could review them.

He also alleged that hospital officials refused to allow Johnson telephone contact with her attorneys.

UCI Medical Center officials were unavailable Saturday.


Advertisement