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$15 million awarded for eggs and embryos lost in tank failure

14 June 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1099

The first trial over a California fertility clinic's cryogenic tank failure concluded by awarding $15 million to five plaintiffs.

Three women who lost frozen eggs and a couple who lost embryos were awarded compensation for their treatment costs and their lost eggs/embryos, but also for the 'pain, suffering and emotional distress' of being deprived of the chance to have biological children.

'These families have suffered an unspeakable loss and still struggle every day with the tragedy that took place more than three years ago at Pacific Fertility Centre,' said Adam Wolf, a lawyer who represented the families. 'Today's jury award honours the pain and suffering that these families have gone through and are still going through.'

The 2018 cryogenic tank failure at the Pacific Fertility Centre in San Francisco resulted in the loss of over 3500 frozen eggs and embryos (see BioNews 942). 

The lawsuit was filed against the fertility clinic and Chart Inc, which manufactured the tank that failed. Each argued that the other was to blame – Pacific claimed that the failure was due to a manufacturing defect in the tank and that Chart knew about a defect in a controller device after it was sold but failed to recall or retrofit it. Chart in turn argued that the clinic was at fault for misusing the product and failing to respond to alarms.

The jury decided that the manufacturing defect was the primary cause for the tank failure – apportioning 90 percent of the blame to Chart and the remaining 10 percent to the clinic. 

'This verdict should be a wake-up call not only to Chart, but also to fertility clinics around the country,' said Wolf. 'When they make mistakes and the embryos and eggs they are entrusted to safeguard are jeopardised, the consequences are severe and real.'

Over 100 other lawsuits have been filed related to this incident, and a second trial has already been scheduled.

Case no. 18-cv-01586-JSC Verdict Form
United States District Court Northern District of California |  10 June 2021
Cryo tank maker says clinic to blame in embryo loss trial
Reuters |  24 May 2021
Jury asked to award millions over failed embryo tank
Reuters |  10 June 2021
Jury finds tank maker responsible for lost eggs and embryos, awards $15 million
Court House News |  10 June 2021
Tank manufacturer accuses fertility clinic of falsifying data in frozen eggs trial
Court House News |  27 May 2021
Week Ahead in Products Liability: May 24, 2021
Reuters |  21 May 2021
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