San Francisco jury awards $15 million to victims after a storage tank malfunction destroyed embryos

By Mallika Kallingal and Alexandra Meeks | CNN

In a historic verdict, five victims were awarded nearly $15 million by a jury after a storage tank malfunction at a fertility clinic in San Francisco destroyed their frozen embryos three years ago.

The verdict is the first of its kind to award damages to victims who have lost their chance to have biological children due to a freezer tank malfunction.

The Pacific Fertility Center said a piece of equipment in its cyro-storage laboratory “lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time” on March 4, 2018, ruining the viability of some frozen embryos.

“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.

On Thursday, more than three years later, a jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled the tank manufacturer should be held accountable.

At least one tank produced by the manufacturer Chart was defective, according to the verdict, and it was a “substantial factor in causing harm” to all five plaintiffs. The jury concluded Chart was 90% at fault while Pacific Fertility Center was 10% at fault.

The manufacturer and Pacific Fertility Center were negligent with respect to the tank, according to the verdict, and the manufacturer should have known that the tank’s defective controller 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 fix the problem, according to the verdict. The damages encompass the value of the lost eggs as well as the pain, suffering and emotional distress the victims underwent.

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