In a follow-up to a blog we wrote back in March, an Ohio judge denied a request by lawyers to throw out one of the 45 lawsuits against University Hospitals (UH) by clients whose frozen embryos or eggs were destroyed in a UH fertility clinic in Cleveland. In early March, 4,000 eggs and embryos belonging to 950 families were damaged when temperatures improperly and dramatically rose in one of the clinic’s storage tank’s freezers.
The lawyers requested that two lawsuits, filed by Wendy and Rick Penniman of Broadview Heights, and John and Kristine Brickel of Bay Village, should be thrown out and reclassified as medical malpractice cases. Judge Stuart Friedman denied the motion to throw out the Pennimans’ case. He didn’t rule on the Brickels’ case, but it’s expected that Friedman’s ruling would apply to all 45 cases, as they have been consolidated into one.
Attorney Tom Merriman, who is representing several clients, stated, “The whole reason for consolidation is to give the parties consistency in rulings. The court’s logic in this order (involving the Pennimans), I would assume, would apply to all of the cases, and any additional motions to dismiss the cases on the basis of medical malpractice would fail.”
Medical malpractice or negligence?
It’s likely UH attempted to have the cases against them reclassified as medical malpractice because those types of cases have caps on potential damages per Ohio law, typically $250,000 to $500,000. Judge Friedman, in his order, said the basis of his decision was whether or not the storage of the eggs and embryos constituted medical care. University Hospital claimed that the storage required medical expertise. Friedman denied that claim and sided with the Penniman’s claim that their case focused only on the UH’s negligence on monitoring the storage tanks.
On June 8, the attorneys for all 45 clients will meet with Friedman for a case management hearing.
March’s tank failure
When the freezer malfunctioned sometime between March 3 and March 4, more than 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos were lost. While there was evidence of damage, there is no way to test the embryos and eggs to see if they are still viable without thawing them out first. However, there is no safe way to thaw and then re-freeze the specimens without damaging them.
The Pennimans and Brickels were among the first to file lawsuits against UH, on March 9, about five days after the freezer tank malfunction. If you have any questions about or were affected by the University Hospital Fertility Center incident, get in touch with us today.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law have offices throughout Ohio and Kentucky. We can help you if you’ve been injured because of medical negligence. Please call us at 877-686-8879. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.