The District Court for the Northern District of California, in a jury decision, awarded the five victims $14.975 million in damages, including $14 million for emotional distress, in a landmark verdict involving the destruction of frozen embryos three years ago in a storage tank malfunction at the Pacific Fertility Center, a fertility clinic in San Francisco.
The historic verdict is the first of its kind to compensate victims who have been denied the opportunity to have biological children due to a freezer tank malfunction.
On March 4, 2018, a piece of equipment in the Pacific Fertility Center’s cryo-storage laboratory “lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time,” compromising the frozen embryos and destroyed its viability.
“We are truly sorry this happened and for the anxiety that this will surely cause,” Pacific Fertility Center said in an apology shortly after the incident occurred.
According to the verdict, at least one tank manufactured by Chart was defective, and it was a “significant factor in causing harm” to all five plaintiffs. The jury found Chart to be 90% at fault and Pacific Fertility Center to be 10% at fault.
Both the manufacturer and Pacific Fertility Center were negligent with regard to the tank, the jury says. The manufacturer should have known that the defective controller on the tank was dangerous or likely to be dangerous.
Chart became aware of the defect after the tank was sold but failed to recall the equipment or correct the problem, according to court records. The damages include the value of the lost eggs and the victims’ pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
“These families have suffered an unspeakable loss and still struggle every day with the tragedy that took place more than three years ago at Pacific Fertility Center,” said attorney Adam Wolf, who represents victims in other IVF and genetic material cases.
“Today’s jury award honors the pain and suffering that these families have gone through and are still going through,” Wolf said.