New lawsuits have been filed against University Hospitals and related organizations almost a year after a storage tank failure at its fertility clinic rendered 4,000 eggs and embryos unviable.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, Cleveland law firms Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane and DiCello Levitt filed multiple new lawsuits in federal court and Geauga County, seeking damages from UH and related organizations, as well as CAS Data Loggers, a Geauga County-based firm specializing in temperature monitoring and reporting that was responsible for the alarm system in UH’s fertility clinic, according to a news release.
“UH admits that it failed with its handling of the now-destroyed embryos,” said Adam Wolf, attorney and shareholder, Peiffer Wolf Carr and Kane, in a prepared statement. “UH acknowledged that the families who entrusted their eggs and embryos to them were counting on them to protect those precious items. These families were trusting UH to properly freeze and safely store their eggs and embryos. These destroyed eggs and embryos were the future children of these families, who have suffered extreme emotional distress and grief regarding the loss of their embryos.”
The storage tank and alarm failure occurred in early March last year. UH has disclosed that the tank in question had been in need of preventative maintenance, that employees had to manually fill the tank with liquid nitrogen and that the alarm designed to alert a UH employee to changes like temperature swings was off.
The lawsuits cite as defendants, according to the release: UH Health Systems Inc., UH Cleveland Medical Center, University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, University Hospitals Medical Practice and CAS Data Loggers.
The lawsuits, which seek jury trials to determine appropriate compensatory and punitive damages, allege negligence, gross negligence and breach of contract, according to the release.
In March 2018, Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane and DiCello Levitt filed initial lawsuits in the names of a few couples and on behalf of the victims of University Hospitals Health System Inc., University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center Inc., University Hospitals Medical Group Inc., and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Since then, the two firms have been representing about 100 families, and have filed suits in some of those cases.
The suits filed Thursday are the first the two firms have filed in federal and Geauga County courts.
UH at around 4 p.m. Thursday issued the following statement:
“Since the March 4 Fertility Center event, University Hospitals and its leaders have apologized and continue to put our patients first by offering free fertility care to impacted patients who would like to continue their path to growing their families. We have also made significant enhancements at the Fertility Center and we embrace and reinforce a culture that encourages our physicians, nurses, and staff to speak up when they see ways to further increase the quality of care we provide to patients.
“UH has worked with Fertility Center patients and their lawyers over the past year to negotiate a significant number of settlements and will continue offering resolution alternatives to our patients who want to avoid the time, expense, and anxiety of litigation. Out of respect for all of the families impacted by the event, and respect for the court in Cuyahoga County, where these same issues are being heard, UH will not provide any further comment at this time.”
“New lawsuits filed against University Hospitals for fertility clinic tank failure” originally appeared in Crain’s Cleveland Business.