Last year, we shared the sad news about two fertility clinics on opposite sides of the country that experienced equipment malfunctions in early March 2018 resulting in the loss of thousands of frozen eggs and embryos dating back as far as the 1980s. These coincidental systems failures tragically affected more than 1,100 individuals and families.
More than 70 lawsuits were subsequently filed in a case against the suburban Cleveland, OH clinic run by University Hospitals. After becoming aware of the problem, the clinic sent letters to more than 1,000 patients blaming human error for the loss of some 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos during the weekend of March 3, 2018. The plaintiffs in those lawsuits, clinic patients who intended to use their frozen eggs and embryos in the future, have asserted claims that the clinic acted negligently and breached its contract.
Sadly, the affected frozen embryos and eggs are no longer viable. The judge who initially took on the case, Justice Stuart Friedman, has retired from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The case is set to resume this month and will be presided over by a new judge, Ashley Kilbane.
In a separate but related case, two of the plaintiffs in the University Hospitals case have appealed retired Judge Friedman’s decision that the embryos lost in the storage tank failure should have been considered people and legally treated as patients of the clinic.
It’s too early to speculate on the outcome of this case, but it’s one that our office and other surrogacy law attorneys nationwide will be watching closely!