Pretrial hearing set for “Switched at Birth” case

BUCKHANNON — With only seven known cases of babies being switched at birth in the United States, locals John William Carr III and Jackie Spencer are one of them, thanks to the DNA testing kit, “23andMe.” 

In 2020, Spencer and Carr filed a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston after discovering they had been switched at birth in Buckhannon at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1942, previously ran by the Pallottine Foundation. The civil complaint was filed on June 5, 2020 by Charles J. Crooks, Esq., of Morgantown’s Crooks Law Firm PLLC.

Legal counsel for the Catholic Diocese, James Gardill and Richard Beaver, argued on September 30, 2020 that there were errors in the original and amended filings, which should alleviate their client’s responsibility in the case. One argument addressed that the filing exceeded the statute of limitations, while another alleged it was impossible to determine who was actually at fault all these years later. The Record Delta received an update explaining that the lawsuit was continued despite a motion to dismiss the case by the Diocese in March.

The lawsuit has now made it to the discovery process, where all parties will gather the merits for presentation at trial. Both sides are preparing their cases and are permitted the chance to “discover” the merits of the other’s case, which takes time, Crooks explained. A pretrial conference will be conducted by Judge Gaujot on April 12, 2022, during which time he will set a trial date. “So, we should now be less than a year from a trial date,” he noted.

Crooks also articulated, “The mapping of the human genome has ushered in a scientific tool with world changing power. It has stemmed the COVID-19 pandemic, set the wrongly convicted free, and brought the guilty to account. Genetics is now amazingly helping my clients uncover the truth of what happened when they were just infants. In the hands of the law, genetics can bring a measure of justice and for the wrong done to all of them and their families.”

According to the complaint, although Spencer and Carr are grateful to finally know the truth after 77 years, they now share feelings of devastation to learn that their lives were dramatically different from what should have been.  Since discovering the news, Carr has reportedly suffered physical and mental stress. According to the complaint, “The Plaintiffs have all suffered a lifetime of consequences from the negligence that sent Jack and John home with the wrong parents.” The Plaintiffs, Jackie Spencer and John Carr III, as well as their wives, are seeking monetary compensation in an amount that may help repair the general and special damages they have suffered for the last 77 years, as well as injuries they will continue to suffer for the remainder of their lives.

With DNA kits growing in popularity, it is likely more and more lawsuits such as this will turn up. These kits can provide adopted children the opportunity to find their biological families, children born through artificial insemination to find their biological father, and endless other scenarios for the curious. One man who chose sperm donation to make extra cash years ago, reportedly found out in 2020 that he had helped conceive at least 22 children. Several of them have reached out to him after discovering their relationship through DNA testing kits—despite sperm banks promising anonymity to donors.

Stay tuned for a trial date in the lawsuit with Spencer and Carr against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.


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