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Actor's ex-fiancé has frozen embryos case thrown out

8 February 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1082

A Louisiana federal judge has dismissed a custody claim by Sofia Vergara's former fiancé over their frozen embryos.

Vergara and Nick Loeb had IVF treatment together and froze two embryos before ending their engagement in 2014. After their separation Loeb expressed wishes to bring them to term using a surrogate, publicly stating his belief that life begins at conception. Vergara has withheld her consent for the embryos to be used. 

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans, found that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case as Loeb 'is not domiciled in, does not maintain a residence in, and does not have the intent to be domiciled or a resident of any parish in the State of Louisiana'. 

Loeb had originally brought a case in California, where Vergara lives and where the embryos were created and stored (see BioNews 800). He later withdrew the suit and re-filed in Louisiana – a state which considers embryos judicial persons (in California they are considered property).

Rejecting his appeal, the court accused Loeb and his lawyer of jurisdiction shopping – deliberately choosing the Louisiana justice system on the basis that it would be more sympathetic to his case:

'It is clear that Mr Loeb blatantly engaged in forum shopping when he selected... [Louisiana] to file the instant lawsuit, with full knowledge that it was the improper venue. Their behaviour brings disrepute to, and makes a mockery of the Louisiana legal system... and is abhorrent.'

A previous hearing in Louisiana reached the same conclusion in 2017 (see BioNews 916).

Vergara has argued in both cases that an agreement was signed during fertility treatment to prevent unilateral decisions being made about the embryos. She filed for a permanent injunction in 2017 to have her former fiancé blocked from using them without her express permission.

When not ruled out by questions of jurisdiction, custody battles over embryos raise myriad complex legal issues – including whether it is appropriate to make someone a parent against their wishes, and what the legal status of frozen embryos ought to be. 

Loeb's lawyer told People that they plan to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Loeb v Vergara
Court of Appeal Fourth Circuit, State of Louisiana |  27 January 2021
Sofia Vergara's ex Nick Loeb loses appeal in legal battle over frozen embryos
Mirror |  2 February 2021
Sofia Vergara's ex Nick Loeb loses appeal in ongoing legal battle over frozen embryos
People |  2 February 2021
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