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California jury awards $ 15 million to victims after storage tank malfunction destroys embryos

The verdict is the first of its kind to award damages to victims who lost their chance to have biological children due to a malfunction in the freezer tank.

The Pacific Fertility Center said a piece of equipment in its cryostorage lab “lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period” on March 4, 2018, ruining the viability of some frozen embryos.

“We are very sorry that this has happened and for the anxiety it is sure to cause,” the Pacific Fertility Center said in an apology shortly after the incident.

On Thursday, more than three years later, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the tank maker should be held responsible.

At least one tank produced by manufacturer Chart was defective, according to the verdict, and this was a “substantial injury factor” for the five plaintiffs. The jury concluded that Chart was 90% at fault while the Pacific Fertility Center was 10% at fault.

The manufacturer and Pacific Fertility Center were negligent with the tank, the verdict said, and the manufacturer should have known that the faulty tank controller was or could be dangerous.

Chart became aware of the defect after the tank was sold, but did not recall the equipment or fix the problem, according to the verdict. The damage encompasses the value of the lost eggs as well as the pain, suffering and emotional distress suffered by the victims.

“These families have suffered untold loss and still struggle every day with the tragedy that took place more than three years ago at the Pacific Fertility Center,” said attorney Adam Wolf, who represents victims in other cases. IVF and genetic material.

“Today’s Jury Prize honors the pain and suffering these families have endured and continue to experience,” said Wolf.

In an unrelated event the same weekend in March 2018, thousands of frozen eggs and embryos were also compromised at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. A malfunction caused the temperatures in the freezers where they were stored to drop.
The incident affected hundreds of families, teaching hospitals said at the time. In February 2020, two new lawsuits were filed against the University Hospitals Fertility Clinic in Cleveland.

CNN’s Holly Yan and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.

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