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Court Reinstates Claims Over Egg-Selling Scandal

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - A California appeals court reinstated part of a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California after a news scandal broke accusing doctors at a university-owned fertility clinic of stealing fertilized eggs from more than 300 patients and selling them for research.

Seven married couples and a single woman claimed they were among the patients who received treatment from Doctors Ricardo Asch and Jose Balmaceda in the late 1980s at the Center for Reproductive Health in the Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center.

The doctors came under media fire in 1995 for allegedly stealing patients' eggs. Plaintiffs claimed they did not find out that they were potential victims until 2000, and filed their lawsuits within a year of discovering their claims.

The lawsuits alleged, among other things, that their genetic material could have been implanted in other women, resulting in their babies being born without their knowledge.

The trial court concluded that they should have suspected wrongdoing sooner, since more than 100 news articles had been written about the scandal.

But the patients claim knowledge of harm cannot be determined solely by media coverage. They also challenged the court's decision to apply the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act statute of limitations to their complaints, which raise intentional torts.

"Their contentions have merit," Justice O'Leary wrote. The appellate court ruled that the statute of limitations does not bar any of the claims against the regents, and allowed the patients to proceed with all claims against the medical center except their claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision.

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