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California Fertility Center is Awarded $15 million

Five patients of a California Fertility Center have been awarded a total of $15m after a freezing tank failed, rendering some of more than 3,500 frozen human embryos and eggs unviable. The extent of the damage from the accidental thaw is uncertain, jurors awarded the sum to clients of the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco after finding that the storage tank maker, Chart Industries, had known about a defect that prevented accurate temperature monitoring and had not warned the center about the problem.

The case could have consequences for a fertility industry estimated to be worth $37bn by 2030. This comes from declining fertility rates and a drop in childbirth, recently described as a Covid baby-bust. Jurors in the case found that Chart was 90% and Pacific Fertility 10% responsible for the failure to adequately safeguard the material. It marks the first time a jury has awarded damages in a case involving the destruction of eggs and embryos.

Adam Wolf, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs said that this verdict should be a wake-up call for Fertility Center. The jury’s award shows that when clinics make mistakes they can be devastating.At the trial, the freezer manufacturer argued that the error had been caused by fertility clinic lab employees unplugging the tank’s malfunctioning controller and then keeping eggs and embryos in a container with no temperature-alert system in operation for 17 days.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs presented evidence that Chart had known about a problem with the tank from a 2012 internal study and had received complaints about a malfunctioning controller since 2015.

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