LOS ANGELES (CN) – After months of unsuccessful in vitro fertilization therapy, Anni and Ashot Manukyan’s child was born this year – to a woman who didn’t know she was carrying the couple’s child following a disastrous error by a Los Angeles fertility clinic, according to the couple’s lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The fertility clinic not only gave the unnamed woman the Manukyans’ embryo, but a second couple’s embryo was also placed inside the woman. The woman gave birth to twins from two separate families who were not related to her, the Manukyans say in their lawsuit filed in LA County Superior Court.
All three couples went to LA-based CHA Fertility to help start their families.
The Manukyans signed a contract with CHA to store their fertilized embryos, according to their complaint, and paid over $120,000 for fertility services involving numerous ultrasounds, drug therapy and other medical procedures.
In 2011, they used one or more of the fertilized embryos and gave birth to their daughter. They tried for another child in 2018 but they did not conceive. A third embryo was discarded by the clinic without their knowledge, the couple says.
According to the couple, the truth began to come out when they received an unexpected request from the clinic to have their cheeks swabbed. Then this past April, the clinic informed the Manukyans that at least one of their embryos was placed in another woman who gave birth to twins, and one of the babies was 99.99% biologically related to them.
The second child was not biologically related to the unnamed couple either, the Manukyans say, but to a third CHA client. Meanwhile, the couple also learned the embryos placed in Anni in 2018 were not biologically related to them either.
“To this day, Anni and Ashot do not know whose embryos were actually transferred to Anni on that day,” the couple says in their complaint.
They say the clinic’s chief operations officer, defendant Yumie Lee, tried to assuage them and told them their genetic son – then two weeks old – would be returned to them within two weeks. Lee said the unnamed couple was willing to be listed as “gestational carrier” after the fact, the Manukyans say in their complaint.
But the Manukyans say Lee lied, as the unnamed couple refused to hand over the child and hired a lawyer to make sure they didn’t have to.
The Manukyans filed a habeas corpus petition in a New York family court. Anni Manukyan says she fainted when the judge approved their petition.
“We relied on CHA to help us build a family and, instead, they robbed us of the opportunity to bring our own son into this world,” Anni Manukyan said in a statement. “We can never forgive CHA. Our goal as a family is to hold CHA accountable and make sure that no one ever suffers like we did.”
Attorney Adam Wolf of Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane represents the couple.
“This incredible series of events demonstrates CHA’s shocking incompetence,” Wolf said. “While I have handled hundreds of cases of fertility-center misconduct, this tragedy at CHA is among the most egregious I have seen.”
Defendants include CHA Health Systems, Lee, laboratory director Simon Hong and fertility specialist Joshua Berger, who the couple says transferred the Manukyans’ embryos into the unnamed woman. The couple seeks compensatory, property, emotional and punitive damages on claims of breach of contract, medical malpractice, battery and others.
A phone call and email to CHA seeking comment were not immediately answered.