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Landmark Decision in Fertility Clinic Case

Landmark Decision in Fertility Clinic Case

The Washington Post reported on a landmark decision in a case starting in 2018:  The devastating news landed in the inboxes of the fertility clinic patients early one morning in March 2018.

A tank storing frozen human embryos and eggs at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco had failed, potentially destroying the precious cells that scores of people hoped would one day bring them biological children. Some might still be viable, the clinic told them in the alert, but the full extent of the damage was unclear.

After more than three years of litigation in federal court, a jury in California awarded five of the patients who lost embryos and eggs a combined $15 million in damages — a historic verdict that could have far-reaching consequences for the loosely regulated U.S. fertility industry.

The verdict appears to mark the first time a jury has awarded damages in a case involving the destruction of eggs and embryos, according to experts in family law. The outcome could serve as a bellwether not just for the hundreds of other plaintiffs with claims pending against Chart and the fertility clinic but for others whose dreams of becoming parents were dashed by similar errors, they said.

This is a landmark case,” said Naomi R. Cahn, director of the University of Virginia’s Family Law Center. “In the past, many of these cases have settled, but here, we have a definitive jury verdict, holding the tank manufacturer primarily responsible, but with the clinic also responsible.”

In court papers, attorneys said the embryos and eggs lost represented the only chance for some of the patients to conceive children. The emotion in the courtroom was palpable when the jury delivered the verdict, they said.

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