New lawsuits filed in IVF storage tank failure case

Published by Contemporary OB/GYN

By Judith M. Orvos, ELS

Jan 24, 2019

Failure of liquid nitrogen storage tanks at two major infertility centers last year led to a flurry of lawsuits and a review of procedures at those and other similar facilities and by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Now a new round of lawsuits has been filed, aimed at hospitals in Ohio and a firm that specializes in temperature monitoring and reporting.

Named in the latest lawsuits as defendants are University Hospitals Health Systems, Inc., University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, and University Hospitals Medical Practice. Also included in the filings is CAS Data Loggers, a company that allegedly was responsible for monitoring the alarm system at UH that failed. Previously, a least three lawsuits—one a federal class action—were filed by women whose eggs or embryos might have been damaged.

The initial incident that sparked the lawsuits occurred on March 4, 2018 at University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland. A statement issued by the Center said that it involved “an unexpected temperature fluctuation with the tissue storage bank where eggs and embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen.”

A similar incident also occurred on March 4 at Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco. The failure was in storage tank No. 4 and the Clinic is said to have notified 400 patients whose eggs and embryos were stored there. That incident was reported to the College of American Pathologists, which certifies laboratories.

An Ohio coupled filed the first lawsuit after the tank failure in Cleveland. A Pennsylvania couple filed the second lawsuit, also against University Hospitals Fertility Center. In California, a class-action lawsuit was filed by a woman whose eggs were stored at Pacific Fertility Center.

The new lawsuits, filed in federal court and Geauga County, Ohio, allege negligence, gross negligence, and breach of contract. The plaintiffs are asking for jury trials to determine appropriate compensatory and punitive damages.

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