Brighton Fertility Dr. Wortman killed in plane crash, still two lawsuits against him

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BRIGHTON, N.Y. – One of the people killed in a small plane crash in Orleans County this weekend was Dr. Morris Wortman. Wortman was a famed fertility doctor in Brighton. But a lawsuit in 2021 alleged he fathered children of his patients through artificial insemination without them knowing.

That lawsuit, and a second one, are still active and the rules in New York say the lawsuits can go on even though Dr. Wortman has died. If the plaintiffs want to continue, the defendant would be the doctor’s estate.

The plane Wortman was in crashed Sunday in a farm field north of Albion. The Orleans County Sheriff says the plane broke apart.

“It appears that it was a catastrophic mechanical failure that caused the plane to come apart,” Sheriff Christopher Bourke said.

Read about the plane, a Wittman W-5 Buttercup here.

Records show two lawsuits against Wortman including one alleging wrong doing with fertility treatments.

Brean: “What happens to that case?”

Don Chesworth, partner at law firm Tully Rinckey: “If it’s a civil matter it would probably continue on and the estate would take the place of the person who passed away.”

The fertility lawsuit against Wortman is two and a half years old with 63 filings. Chesworth says defendants can cause lawsuits to go on as long as they do.

“And often they will want to protect their reputation or something like that,” he said. “But once that decedent is gone, the insurance company may want to settle it in order to get it over with.”

I contacted all the attorneys involved in the lawsuits. None of them returned my calls and emails. I contacted Wortman’s office. The staff did not wish to share a statement.

The pilot of the plane was Earl Luce Jr. One friend of his said it’s a great loss.

“A fellow pilot told me Luce, Earl was an amazing aviator, a natural, a ‘good stick’,” said fellow pilot David Morrill. “I knew and respected Earl as a man of good moral character, and values. I observed him to be a good husband and father when I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with his family on various occasions.”

The Experimental Aircraft Association says there were 56 fatal crashes involving homebuilt airplanes from September 2021 to September 2022. EAA says the number has gone up a bit but they attribute that to more people flying them and more hours in the air.

The Orleans County Sheriff believes Luce was taking several people up on flights Sunday before the crash.

The NTSB says it has investigators at the scene and expects a preliminary report in three weeks.