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Eight families file lawsuits in Geauga Co., federal court over fertility clinic failure

Posted at 11:44 AM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 18:20:28-05

CLEVELAND — Eight new lawsuits were filed Thursday against University Hospitals and CAS Data Loggers, the company that provided the temperature monitoring system and alarm used on the storage tank that failed last March, which led to the destruction of 4,000 eggs and embryos in the hospital's fertility clinic.

The lawsuits were filed by eight couples impacted by the failure and law firms Peiffer, Wolf, Carr & Kane and DiCello Levitt. Two of those couples, Joe and Kim Bucar, of Concord Township, and Matt and Emily Petite, of Painesville Township, spoke at the news conference.

Emily Petite said when she first learned of the failure, "it was the most devastating loss I've ever felt. It was a loss that was felt throughout our entire family -- not just Matt and I. Our son will never have a sibling. Our parents, who will never be grandparents again. Our siblings, who will never have the chance to be aunts and uncles again."

Since some couples reside out of state, some lawsuits were filed in federal court. Others were filed in Geauga County due to some families residing there, the attorneys said. CAS is also based out of Geauga County.

The lawsuits filed Thursday said the patients "trusted the Center to safeguard their embryos. Tragicially, Defendants' misconduct destroyed the embryos of Plaintiffs." The lawsuits later went on to say the families "entrusted the Center with their dreams of having children, as well as their most sensitive and important property: their frozen embryos."

After the failure occurred, it was found that the remote alarm on the tank had been turned off. The lawsuits alleged CAS, a Chesterland-based company that distributes loggers, paperless recorders and data acquisition equipment, should have ensured the system on the liquid nitrogen storage tank was functioning at all times and should have warned UH when the temperature in the tank rose above a certain level.

“CAS knew and/or should have recognized that a failure to alert the UH Defendants of a rise in temperature in the storage tank at the Center would increase the risk of harm to Plaintiffs and their embryos that were stored within the tank," the lawsuits stated.

The storage tank malfunction at UH's fertility center that led to the inviability of 4,000 eggs and embryos turned the lives of local families upside down. In the weeks that followed the March 3 tragedy, 950 patients discovered they had far more questions than answers.

Find links to News 5’s investigations into this tragic incident here.

The two law firms who filed the lawsuits Thursday represent approximately 100 families that were impacted by the malfunction.

"You put all this faith into a hospital system with hopes they'll protect any possibility you have of growing your family," Kim Bucar said. "And that decision was taken away from us."

News 5 has reached out to CAS Data Loggers for comment and has not heard back.

UH provided the following statement via email:

“Since the March 4 Fertility Center event, University Hospitals and its leaders have apologized and continue to put our patients first by offering free fertility care to impacted patients who would like to continue their path to growing their families. We have also made significant enhancements at the Fertility Center and we embrace and reinforce a culture that encourages our physicians, nurses, and staff to speak up when they see ways to further increase the quality of care we provide to patients. “UH has worked with Fertility Center patients and their lawyers over the past year to negotiate a significant number of settlements and will continue offering resolution alternatives to our patients who want to avoid the time, expense, and anxiety of litigation. Out of respect for all of the families impacted by the event, and respect for the Court in Cuyahoga County, where these same issues are being heard, UH will not provide any further comment at this time.”
-George Stamatis, Sr. Media Relations Strategist