FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – An Allen County woman is suing Netflix and Blumhouse Productions for outing her as a ‘secret child’ of former Indianapolis-based fertility doctor Donald Cline on the streaming service’s hit Our Father documentary.
The lawsuit claims the woman was never contacted by anyone associated with the film – which details Cline impregnating dozens of women with his sperm without their consent – nor ever gave producers permission to use her name or likeness in the documentary.
Yet, the documentary identified her as one of Cline’s secret children by listing her name visibly as a “match,” according to the lawsuit.
Others who did not feel comfortable with the documentary or did not give permission to be in the film had their names or likenesses blurred, the lawsuit said.
“The tag line on Blumhouse’s Twitter account is ‘we make nightmares come true,'” the woman’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. “Blumhouse, in conjunction with Netflix, has succeeded in its efforts to make Plaintiff’s nightmare come true.”
The woman’s attorneys first filed the suit in Allen Superior Court in the beginning of June.
Wednesday, they filed paperwork to move the suit to U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, since both Netflix and Blumhouse are Delaware-based corporation that primarily do business in California.
The woman, who is identified as Jane Doe in court documents, is seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages.
Cline fathered nearly 100 children during the 1970s and 1980s while using his own sperm to impregnate dozens of unsuspecting patients, according to court documents. These women were told by Cline that the donors were medical residents and that he used each donor for only three successful pregnancies.
Instead of using donors, though, he used himself.
Eventually, he pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts of obstruction of justice in connection to an investigation into the fertility fraud.
In 2014, some of who would end up being called his “secret children” began taking at-home DNA tests through an online service. That’s when those who had been fathered by Cline began finding out they had several biological half-siblings, according to court documents.
The Allen County woman suing Netflix found out about several of her half-siblings through a DNA test in 2016, according to her suit. That’s also when she discovered Cline was her biological father – something the woman wanted kept private.
“Plaintiff held this fact in close confidence,” her lawsuit said. “Some of Plaintiff’s biological half siblings were able to see her identity through a DNA website. This information was kept secured to a limited number of persons, mainly, certain of her biological half siblings.”
The suit claims producers contacted many of Cline’s “secret children” and offered them the opportunity to discuss being on camera for the film, according to the lawsuit. They also made it clear nobody would be identified without his or her explicit consent, the suit said.
Throughout filming, according to the suit, a producer identified as Michael Petrella wrote to a number of these secret children stating: “I know that some of you were more comfortable than others being involved…you will not be identified (unless you have already given us explicit permission to do so.”
When the film premiered May 11, and despite never having contact with anyone involved, the woman’s name appeared, the lawsuit said.
By the next day, the film was ranked as the No. 1 movie on Netflix, which has more than 70 million subscribers.
“The defendants publication of Plaintiff’s identity as a Secret Child has caused Plaintiff severe harm, including, but not limited to, reputational injury, distress, embarrassment and emotional trauma,” her suit states.
She contacted Blumhouse on May 12 asking producers to blur her personal identifying information. On May 20, Blumhouse responded with: “Thank you very much for your email. We are reviewing your concerns and will respond shortly,” according to the woman’s suit.
As of the first filing of the lawsuit this past June, Blumhouse had not removed the woman’s name.
It’s not the first such lawsuit to be brought against Netflix and Blumhouse in connection to the Cline documentary.
Shortly after its premiere, two Marion county women brought a lawsuit claiming the film identified them without their consent, as well.