updated 6/29/2004 4:39:36 PM ET 2004-06-29T20:39:36

A jury awarded $435,000 to a woman who was accidentally inseminated with unprepared sperm at a fertility clinic.

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The award to Kelly Chambliss — $85,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages — could later be reduced because of state limits on punitive damages.

“We’re pleased with the courage of the jury,” said Chambliss, 37. “We hope this never happens to anyone else again.”

In August 2002 Chambliss became violently ill just after a nurse practitioner inseminated her with the contents of an unlabeled syringe at the Coastal Area Health Education Center.

Sample contained 'unwashed' sperm
Two days later, Chambliss said clinic officials told her that she had been injected with “unwashed” sperm, which was left over from another client’s procedure two days before and had proteins that had caused her uterus to contract.

Chambliss was also told she could have been exposed to diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis and wouldn’t know for sure for about six months, her attorney Gary Shipman said Tuesday.

Chambliss remained “very, very sore” and had diarrhea and vomiting for about a week, Shipman said. She did not contract other diseases.

A judge on Feb. 5 found the nurse practitioner and clinic guilty of medical malpractice. A jury was then seated to determine damages.

In court, clinic attorney John Martin had called the clinic’s acknowledgment of the error the gold standard in honesty.

“Medical errors happen,” he said. “This case is about what happens when you make a mistake.”

It will be up to a judge to make Monday’s jury award comply with the state law capping punitive damages at $250,000. Martin said the total adjusted award would be $335,000.

Chambliss, who had undergone a dozen inseminations, decided she could not go through with more, Shipman said, and last September, she and her partner adopted a child.

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