CLEVELAND (CN) – Off-site monitoring of a fertility clinic in a Cleveland suburb failed to alert staff to rising temperatures in a storage tank that destroyed hundreds of eggs and embryos, several couples claim in class-action lawsuits.
Last Thursday, University Hospitals announced that up to 2,000 eggs and embryos at the Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood, Ohio, may have lost viability at an on-site storage tank at its fertility center. Up to 700 couples and individuals have been affected and the freezer malfunction could mean several couples may have lost their chance to have children.
On Saturday, March 3, through the morning of Sunday, March 4, there were temperature fluctuations in the liquid nitrogen storage tank that caused the eggs and embryos to thaw. No employees were on-site at that time.
An off-site monitoring program was in place but nobody was around to respond to the alarm, according to one lawsuit filed on Monday.
As of Tuesday morning, seven couples who say they lost eggs and embryos have filed class-action lawsuits.
"The clinic's failure to answer the storage bank's alarms, including responding to any off-site monitoring, has imperiled plaintiffs' dreams of becoming parents and destroyed their hope that those eggs and embryos would become future children," according to the lawsuit filed Monday by Laurel and Dustin Clark in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
University Hospitals spokesman Mike Ferrari declined to comment beyond an official statement released last week.
The hospital said that it is investigating the incident, was bringing in independent experts, and had created a dedicated call center to address patients' concerns and set up meetings with their doctors.
"Right now, our patients come first. We are incredibly sorry this happened. We are committed to getting answers and working with patients individually to address their concerns," the medical center said in a statement.
Attorney Lydia Floyd said in a conference call that her clients, the Clarks, had called the clinic on Monday, March 5, to begin the implantation procedure. Their lawsuit claims the medical center called the couple later that evening to report the incident.
Floyd said the Clarks viewed their eggs and embryos as their "future children."
"The Pennsylvania couple is devastated and faced with countless emotions extended by the clinic's failure to protect their embryos and dreams of becoming parents," Clark said.
Amber and Elliott Ash also filed a class action on Monday, following John and Kristine Brickel’s complaint on Friday. All three lawsuits were filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and allege negligence and breach of contract.