Warning: I had to read this article several times before I understood it. To say it is a twisted tale is an understatement. I am still not certain I understand all of it. The story involves a lawsuit that could only happen in Florida. Yet it could also set a precedent that will alter laws about DNA nationwide.
Toronto businessman Harold Peerenboom and Marvel Entertainment chairman Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter were locked in an absurd suburban skirmish, bickering over who should run the tennis center at Sloan’s Curve, the exclusive Palm Beach waterfront community where both men resided. The legal battle took a rather unexpected turn when the lawyers for Peerenboom surreptitiously obtained a DNA sample from a water bottle that both Mr. and Mrs. Perlmutter had used inside the courtroom.
In 2016, the Perlmutters countersued Peerenboom, his attorney, and the forensic lab for “conversion.” Conversion is roughly the civil court equivalent of theft. The Perlmutters were alleging that Peerenboom and his attorney had effectively stolen their DNA and the information contained within the DNA sample.
“By collecting analyzing and testing genetic material to obtain the Perlmutter’s confidential genetic information, conspirators exercise an act of dominion and authority that deprives the Perlmutters’ of their right to ownership, possession, control, and privacy,” the initial countersuit read. In this case, the “right to ownership, possession, control, and privacy” refers to their DNA information.
But wait… there’s more.
In January 2017, Judge Meenu Sasser agreed to let the claim continue and wrote, “The Perlmutters plainly retain intangible rights to their genetic information,” she wrote, adding, “At the very least, one possesses important privacy interests in such information.”
“A lot of people say that by recognizing a property right in our genetics, we’re on the slippery slope of commodifying human beings,” said Jessica Roberts, the director of the University of Houston Health Law and Policy Institute, “and that your genetic data is too precious to be property.”
Depending how this case winds its way through the courts, it may or may not agree that each person has a right to keep his or her own their genetic data private. This could have a huge effect on web sites such as GEDmatch, 23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and others. However, don’t expect a final resolution anytime soon.
You can read the full article by Kristen V. Brown in the Gizmodo web site at http://bit.ly/2yb0oGc.