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New lawsuits filed over embryos lost in freezer failure

28 January 2019
Appeared in BioNews 984

Eight new lawsuits have been filed this week following the loss of 4000 eggs and embryos when a storage tank in a fertility clinic malfunctioned (see BioNews 941). 

The lawsuits are being brought against the fertility clinic University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, and also CAS Data Loggers, which provide the alarm and temperature monitoring system for the tank. Following the failure of the tank in March 2018 it was determined that a remote alarm had been switched off so clinic staff were not alerted when the failure occurred outside working hours. 

'The loss suffered by our clients is devastating,' said lawyer Adam Wolf, whose firm Peiffer Wolf Carr and Kane is representing around 100 affected families. 'Those eggs and embryos represented the hopes of having children for hundreds of American families.'

In total around 950 patients were impacted by the failure, and at least 70 previous lawsuits have been filed (see BioNews 961), but this is the first to name CAS as a defendant. 

The lawsuit states: 'CAS knew and/or should have recognised that a failure to alert the UH Defendants of a rise in temperature in the storage tank at the Centre would increase the risk of harm to Plaintiffs and their embryos that were stored within the tank.'

The lawsuit alleges negligence, gross negligence, and breach of contract and claims compensation and damages for affected families, who 'entrusted the Centre with their dreams of having children, as well as their most sensitive and important property: their frozen embryos'. 

Emily Petite, one of the individuals who along with her husband Matt lost embryos in the incident, told a news conference: 'It was the most devastating loss I've ever felt. It was a loss that was felt throughout our entire family - not just Matt and I. Our son will never have a sibling.'

University Hospitals has expressed its apologies for the incident: 'UH has worked with Fertility Centre patients and their lawyers over the past year to negotiate a significant number of settlements and will continue offering resolution alternatives to our patients who want to avoid the time, expense, and anxiety of litigation.'

An in-depth process review has been conducted by both the facilities involved in the incident and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Eight families file lawsuits in Geauga Co., federal court over fertility clinic failure
ABC News 5 Cleveland |  24 January 2019
New lawsuits filed against Cleveland fertility clinic where 4000 embryos were lost
CNN |  24 January 2019
New lawsuits filed in IVF storage tank failure case
Contemporary OBGYN |  24 January 2019
University Hospitals fertility clinic faces new lawsuits after tank failures
NBC News |  24 January 2019
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