The $14.9 million verdict in California against Chart Industries Inc. over a failed cryopreservation tank that destroyed human eggs and embryos is believed to be the first of its kind, and will be a bellwether for scores of cases, a plaintiffs’ attorney said.
A federal jury found Chart responsible for defects in the tank at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco and said Thursday the company should pay the multimillion-dollar award to five plaintiffs.
The verdict will guide the handling of future cases, Adam Wolf, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said.
“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,” Wolf, of Peiffer Wolf in Los Angeles, said in a statement sent to Bloomberg Law.
Attorneys for Chart didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2018, the center discovered that one of its preservation tanks had been damaged, resulting in a loss of liquid nitrogen. After testing some of the material contained in the tank, the fertility center told the plaintiffs their eggs and embyros likely had been destroyed.
Chart, which manufactured the tank, was 90% responsible for the damages suffered by the plaintiffs, the jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found. A verdict form indicates that the jury determined the company knew or should have known about the defect and failed to recall the tank.
The plaintiffs—three women and a couple—are entitled to damages for the loss of the eggs and embryos as well as their pain, suffering, and emotional distress, the jury said. Their awards range from $2.07 million to $7.2 million.
Pacific Fertility Center was found 10% responsible for the harm. Earlier, the court said claims against the center must be arbitrated.
About 200 other Pacific Fertility Center patients are awaiting their day in court or in arbitration proceedings, Wolf said.
Last year, the court denied plaintiffs’ bid to proceed as a class.
Peiffer Wolf, Girard Sharp LLP, Gibbs Law Group LLP, and others represented the plaintiffs. Sheuerman Martini Tabari Zenere & Garvin and Swanson, Martin & Bell LLP represented Chart.
The case is In re Pac. Fertility Ctr. Litig., N.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-01586, verdict 6/10/21.