On March 13, 2018, our firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of patients whose eggs and embryos were harmed following a large-scale equipment failure at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco.

Read a copy of the lawsuit here.

We are continuing to investigate and review potential claims on behalf of additional patients who were affected by the incident, which may have compromised the viability of frozen eggs and embryos.

Did PFC Damage Your Eggs or Embryos?

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Pacific Fertility Center Negligent in Maintaining Egg, Embryo Freezer, Lawsuit Says

According to the lawsuit, Pacific Fertility Center broke the law by failing to properly maintain, inspect, monitor, and test its cryo-preservation equipment, which on March 4, 2018 “experienced a liquid nitrogen failure in a storage tank holding thousands of frozen eggs and embryos,” the Washington Post reported.

The case further alleges that “electronic tank monitoring sensors should have detected the rise in temperature and alerted staff to the problem earlier,” as is standard practice. It was only during a routine check that the clinic director noticed that the liquid nitrogen levels were too low, potentially causing the frozen eggs and embryos to unfreeze, causing tissue damage.

The root cause of the equipment failure is currently under investigation.

Pacific Fertility Center notified its patients of the incident via email the week after it occurred. The storage tank failure affected up to 15% of the eggs and embryos stored in the facility, jeopardizing the reproductive plans of hundreds of the clinic’s patents, says the Washington Post.

News Coverage of Our Case

 

KTVU Fox 2 News – March 16, 2018

KQED News: March 16, 2018

Woman Sues Fertility Center After Equipment Failure Destroys Her Eggs

“A woman whose frozen eggs were destroyed after a freezer malfunction at San Francisco’s Pacific Fertility Center has filed a class action lawsuit against the company. The suit claims the company was negligent and didn’t properly maintain equipment. We’ll discuss the lawsuit and would like to hear from you: Were you affected by the freezer malfunction? How, if at all, does it influence your decision to freeze your eggs?”

San Francisco Chronicle: March 14, 2018

San Francisco woman sues fertility center after frozen eggs destroyed

“A San Francisco woman has filed a lawsuit against Pacific Fertility Center, alleging the San Francisco clinic’s mishandling of a storage tank containing frozen embryos and eggs resulted in the loss of her eggs. The suit seeks $5 million in damages and was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It also names as a defendant Prelude Fertility, a private-equity-owned reproductive health company based in Atlanta, which in 2017 acquired a majority stake in Pacific Fertility Center.”

The Mercury News: March 14, 2018

Lawsuit filed over lost eggs at San Francisco fertility clinic

Egg and Embryo Freezer Failures Becoming More Common

Another storage tank failure occurred the same weekend. On March 9, 2018, the Washington Post reports that “[m]ore than 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos stored at a Cleveland-area fertility clinic may no longer be viable after temperatures in a storage bank rose over the weekend.” The affected clinic, University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, informed “about 700 patients that their frozen eggs and embryos may have suffered damage.” In a statement, the clinic said that “[i]t is unknown whether the problem was caused by a human error or mechanical failure.”

A spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a major professional organization, said that such large-scale failures are “unprecedented.” But as a growing number of Americans elect to freeze eggs or embryos, such incidents may become more common.

The Costs of Lost or Damaged Eggs, Embryos

Damage to or loss of frozen eggs or embryos in the event of a cryo-preservation equipment failure is emotionally and financially devastating to the individuals and couples who have entrusted their hope for children and their own biological material to their fertility clinics.

Women may choose to freeze their eggs to preserve their reproductive options for a later time, after which they’re no longer fertile. Some women freeze eggs before undergoing medical procedures that render them infertile, such as chemotherapy or a hysterectomy. Still other women donate their eggs to other hopeful women whose eggs are not reproductively viable.

Many couples who cannot conceive naturally, who wish to conceive later, or who plan to run genetic testing on their offspring prior to implantation rely on the services of a fertility clinic to help them through in vitro fertilization. Couples who hope to adopt embryos from others are affected by freezer failures, as well.

Harvesting the eggs puts strain on the body. It requires a series of blood tests and ultrasounds, 9-10 days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries to ripen multiple eggs, and an extraction process, which involves inserting a needle into the ovaries.

After harvesting the eggs, they can be stored unfertilized (as an ovum) or fertilized (as an embryo). The eggs or embryos are treated with antifreeze and stored in a medical-grade freezer.

Harvesting and preserving reproductive tissue is also an enormous financial investment. On average, it costs $10,000 to $12,000 for the egg freezing process, and $800 per year for storage.

About Our Team

Girard Gibbs is a San Francisco-based litigation firm with more than 30 attorneys. Our team consists of seasoned trial lawyers, leading personal injury attorneys, and experienced complex litigators. Our attorneys have been appointed by judges in California and around the country to leadership positions and have achieved landmark recoveries in high-stakes cases.

Premier Bay Area Attorneys with a National Reputation

Our track record of success and approach to litigation are widely-respected with our colleagues and judges, and have earned us numerous accolades and awards:

  • “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California,” Daily Journal (Eric Gibbs)
  • “MVP for Consumer Protection,” Law360 (Eric Gibbs)
  • “Consumer Attorney of the Year,” Finalist, Consumer Attorneys of California (Eric Gibbs)
  • “California Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award” (Jordan Elias)
  • “Top 40 Under 40,” Daily Journal (David Stein)
  • “Top Consumer Protection Attorneys Under 40,” Law360 Rising Stars (David Stein)
  • “Top Privacy Attorneys Under 40,” Law360 Rising Stars (Andre Mura)
  • “Plaintiff’s Hot List,” National Law Journal
  • “AV-Preeminent” peer-review rating, Martindale-Hubbell (highest possible ranking for professional ethics and legal skills) (Eric Gibbs, Daniel Girard, A.J. de Bartolomeo)
  • Tier 1 Best Law Firms in plaintiffs’ mass tort and class action litigation,” U.S. News & World Report

Praise from Our Clients & the Courts

“I found comfort in your abilities every step of the way due to the professionalism and explicit dedication to my case as if it were the only one.”
-Client, Medtronic Lawsuit
“Wonderful experience with everyone at Girard Gibbs…they were always available and willing to answer any questions or concerns I had. I would recommend this firm without hesitation!”
-Client, Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuit
“The attorneys who handled the case were particularly skilled by virtue of their ability and experience.”
-U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise, District of New Jersey
“I’ve always found them to be extraordinary counsel in terms of their preparation and their professionalism.”
-U.S. District Judge David Herndon, Northern District of Illinois

Relevant Experience & Track Record of Success

SSRI Birth Defect State and Federal Litigations

Represented as co-lead counsel infants and their families injured through the taking of antidepressants during pregnancy. (Karen Barth Menzies)

Risperdal and Invega Product Liability Cases

Co-lead and co-liaison counsel representing thousands of male children who took the popular antipsychotic drug Risperdal and suffered irreversible male breast growth. (Eric Gibbs)

Taxotere Products Liability Litigation

Co-lead counsel on behalf of breast cancer survivors who suffered permanent, disfiguring hair loss after chemotherapy treatment. (Karen Barth Menzies)

In re Actos Products Liability Litigation

Appointed to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in this litigation on behalf of thousands of people who suffered from bladder cancer after taking the diabetes drug Actos, which resulted in a $2.37 billion settlement. (A.J. de Bartolomeo)

In re Yasmin and Yaz Marketing, Sales, Practices and Products Liability Litigation

Appointed to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in the litigation, on behalf of women who suffered serious side effects, including stroke, pulmonary embolism, blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, after taking Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella birth control pills. The lawsuits settled for approximately $1.6 billion. (A.J. de Bartolomeo)

In re Pradaxa Products Liability Litigation

A.J. de Bartolomeo was on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in this litigation on behalf of patients who suffered irreversible internal bleeding after taking Pradaxa blood thinners. Lawsuit resolved for settlements of approximately $650 million.

In Re Medtronic, Inc. Implantable Defibrillators Product Liability Litigation

Filed on behalf of individuals who had the defective Medtronic defibrillator device implanted. Approximately 2,000 individual cases were filed around the country and consolidated in an MDL proceeding in District Court in Minnesota. The cases were settled for $75 million.

Key Attorney Profiles

Karen Menzies

Karen Menzies is a nationally-recognized mass tort attorney with over twenty years of experience. She was appointed to serve in leadership positions in some of the country’s largest pharmaceutical mass tort cases, with a particular focus on women’s health issues.

Steven Tindall

Steven Tindall has nearly twenty years of experience representing plaintiffs in a wide variety of individual and class action litigation. He has represented clients against large corporations in a variety of industries including healthcare, technology and financial services.

A.J. De Bartolomeo

A.J. De Bartolomeo has nearly thirty years of experience in large-scale mass, class, and collective actions in cases involving personal injury, securities, antitrust, consumer protection, and copyright laws. She has served as court-appointed lead counsel and class counsel in lawsuits throughout the country.

Adam Polk

Adam E. Polk devotes his practice to representing plaintiffs in complex consumer, securities, and antitrust lawsuits. He takes a client-focused approach to each matter he is involved with. His experience covers all aspects of civil litigation, from initial case
investigation and complaint preparation through settlement or trial.