University Hospitals denies liability for loss of 4,000 eggs, embryos

Cleveland-based University Hospitals denied any liability for a freezer system failure in March that resulted in the loss of more than 4,000 eggs and embryos, according to court documents filed June 29 and obtained by KTLA 5.

More than 4,000 eggs and embryos were destroyed in March after a human error at the UH Fertility Center, which is housed in the Beachwood, Ohio-based University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, caused the temperature in the freezer where the eggs were stored to drop drastically and render them unusable. Roughly 950 patients were affected by the incident.

According to court documents filed June 29, UH denied liability for the incident and stated the in vitro fertilization process involves a number of risks, which patients had been notified of — and provided their consent for — before embarking on the process.

"[Patients] were fully advised of the material risks, benefits, and alternatives available for the treatment, and thereafter voluntarily assumed and consented to those risks," court documents said.

UH also said in court documents the incident and any resulting injuries and damages "may have been caused in whole or in part by the acts and omissions of another or others, whose conduct these answering Defendants had no reason to anticipate and for whose conduct they are and were not responsible."

UH added the incident "may have been caused by the operation of nature or by an idiosyncratic reaction and were not due to or caused by any alleged fault, lack of care, negligence, or breach of duty by Defendants," court documents show.

More than 50 lawsuits involving the families of several affected patients have been filed against UH over the incident, causing a state judge last month to order a committee to oversee the progress of those lawsuits.

In a July 3 statement to Becker's Hospital Review, UH said: "University Hospitals continues to move these cases towards resolution and has filed its formal answers to the complaints, as required by Court rules. We would strongly encourage review of the entire legal document that was submitted to the Court in response to the numerous allegations made by plaintiffs' attorneys. The Court will review each element of our response in detail as the legal process moves forward."

"We recognize the sorrow this situation has caused patients who were affected. Our Fertility Center patients trusted us for their care and we know we need to regain their trust. All of us at University Hospitals remain committed to providing high-quality, patient-centered medical care to the more than 1.2 million patients we serve in Northeast Ohio," the statement continued.

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