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University Hospitals, fertility clinic alarm company face eight new lawsuits

January 25, 2019

University Hospitals, fertility clinic alarm company face eight new lawsuits

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Lawyers for eight couples filed lawsuits Thursday accusing University Hospitals and a new co-defendant of causing the loss of the couples’ embryos, which were among 4,000 eggs and embryos belonging to nearly 1,000 fertility patients destroyed last March 3-4.

The lawsuits accuse DataLoggers Inc., the company responsible for installing and monitoring the alarm system at UH’s Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood, of negligence in the fertilization clinic event.

Six of the lawsuits were filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court because DataLoggers Inc. is located in Chesterland Township. Two other lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court because the plaintiffs live outside Ohio.

“DataLoggers had one task, to make sure the remote alarms were working,” said attorney Adam Wolf at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “That alarm was turned off. They failed at that one task.”

DataLoggers, established in 1998, is an industrial equipment supplier that distributes systems for data collection, including “Medical and Life Sciences temperature monitoring and alarming systems to provide peace of mind,” according to the company’s website.

The lawsuit accuses DataLoggers of installing a defective temperature monitoring and alarm system at the UH facility, of failing to warn UH that the system was malfunctioning, and deactivating the alarm. This caused the liquid nitrogen in the storage system tanks to rise to temperatures that destroyed the eggs and embryos. UH was aware the storage tank and the remote alarm systems were malfunctioning, the lawsuit claims.

DataLoggers referred a reporter to its lawyer, who did not return a call seeking comment.

The hospital said in a prepared statement that the hospital “continues 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.”

More than 80 lawsuits have been filed against UH over the past year, the majority in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Several hundred more couples have engaged lawyers with the intent of suing the hospital before the one-year statute of limitations passes for filing medical negligence cases, according to the lawyers.

Recently, UH has negotiated what it says is “a significant number” of out-of-court settlements with plaintiffs, “and will continue offering resolution alternatives to our patients who want to avoid the time, expense and anxiety of litigation,” the hospital said.

All of the cases contain confidentiality clauses that prevent the parties from discussing details of the resolutions, including the amount of damages paid to the plaintiffs.

Attorney Bobby DiCello cautioned those couples who lost eggs and embryos, and who have not yet filed lawsuits, against delaying their decisions.

“This is a time for decisive action to seek justice,” DiCello said. “Our hope is that this new litigation will require UH and DataLoggers to fully compensate them for the harms and losses these families have suffered.”

Two of the couples who are part of the new suits against DataLoggers attended the press conference Thursday at the offices of Wolf’s law firm, Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane.

Emily and Matthew Petite of Painesville Township said their family continues to suffer and has failed to heal as the year has passed.

“We entrusted UH with the most important parts of our lives and they betrayed that trust,” said Emily Petite, who lost four fertilized embryos in the event. “We thought we had hit rock bottom [last March], but UH has shown us time and time again that the worst is yet to come.”

Kim and Joe Bucar of Concord Township have two young daughters but mourn the realization they will never have a biological son conceived through in-vitro fertilization.

“The last thing you anticipate happening is getting a call saying that your embryos are gone,” Kim Bucar said. “You put all your faith into a hospital system in hopes they’re going to protect any possibility you have of growing your family. That decision was taken away from us.”

Kasi and Mark Hockensmith of Warren County; Lavania Subramian and Sivashanmugam Alagarsamy, and Nicole and Michael Williams, their addresses unknown; also filed lawsuits in the Geauga County court. Amanda and Craig Goodwill of Erie County, Pennsylvania, and Casey and Justin Copier of Utah County, Utah, filed lawsuits in federal court in Cleveland.

A newly-elected judge, Ashley Kilbane, is presiding over the Cuyahoga County cases for retired Judge Stuart Friedman. The cases have remained inactive since October.

Before retiring, Friedman issued a gag order on plaintiffs’ attorneys in July in response to a request from attorneys for UH, who accused their opposition lawyers of poisoning a potential jury pool with their comments to the press.

Wolf and DiCello said Thursday, however, that the gag order does not pertain to them because the press conference dealt with information contained in the public record and their cases are not being heard in Cuyahoga County.

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