Woman, couple sue University Hospitals over loss of embryos, eggs in freezer malfunction

University Hospitals | Cleveland.com | John Caniglia | February 5, 2020

“CLEVELAND, Ohio — A woman and a couple sued University Hospitals in separate lawsuits Tuesday, claiming a mechanical malfunction resulted in the loss of eggs and embryos at the Ahuja Medical Center’s fertility clinic in 2018.

Attorneys for the woman said that the malfunction caused the loss of her eggs, while the couple lost embryos. The plaintiffs were not identified in the cases filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court.

The cases were filed less than a month before the final deadline for lawsuits in the case. Already, more than 200 families have settled lawsuits against the hospital. Attorneys have refused to discuss settlement amounts.

In a statement, University Hospitals declined to comment on the new cases.

The suits were filed in Geauga County because CAS DataLoggers Inc., the company responsible for installing and monitoring the alarm system at the fertility clinic, is in Chesterland. An attorney for the company did not return a message seeking comment.

The malfunction took place March 3, 2018, when temperatures rose in a cryopreservation tank, rendering 4,000 embryos and eggs of more than 900 families nonviable.

Some of the lawsuits accused the hospital of medical malpractice. Under Ohio law, the statute of limitations for that is one year, meaning a lawsuit must be filed within a year of the incident.

A year ago, attorneys for both the families and the hospital agreed to extend the deadline.

On Tuesday, attorneys representing both the woman and the couple, Joseph Peiffer and Adam Wolf, said the malfunction ended their clients’ dreams of having children. The woman lost nine of her eggs. The couple lost five embryos. The lawyers said their clients seek to hold the hospital accountable for the losses. They also cited the need for greater regulation in the fertility industry.

‘We want to make sure that something like this never happens again,’ Wolf said.

The fertility clinic’s storage tank was most commonly used for families storing embryos for the in vitro fertilization process, as well as for egg donors, and for women who are delaying pregnancy or concerned about the ability to conceive.

Some patients had more than one sample stored, and some of the samples were provided years ago.

Besides those filed in Geauga County, civil cases against the hospital were brought in Cuyahoga and U.S. District Court in Cleveland. Wolf said about 200 people have not filed cases.


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