Attorneys Representing Families Who Lost Eggs and Embryos Say University Hospitals' Answer Contradicts its Strategic Public Relations Statements
Published: Jul 06, 2018
CLEVELAND, July 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- On June 29, 2018 University Hospitals ("UH") filed its long-awaited formal Answers to the Complaints pending in state court. After months of public apologies, many were shocked and appalled to learn that UH denied responsibility. Law firm Spangenberg, Shibley and Liber contends that UH's position directly contradicts its prior public relations statements.
For months, UH made several statements to the press about the March 3, 2018 tragedy wherein its storage tank destroyed 4,000 eggs and embryos, affecting more than 950 families.
During that time, those affected awaited UH's answer to the question on everyone's mind: What happened?
On March 27, 2018, UH posted a video offering "insight" into the tragedy that occurred at the UH Fertility Clinic. Tom Zenty, former CEO of UH, stated:
"I can't say it any more plainly; we failed our fertility clinic patients. We are sorry. I am sorry. And we're going to do everything we can do regain our patients' trust."
In light of UH's recent Answer denying responsibility, those affected believe UH's self-serving statements were a public relations ploy to maintain their clientele.
Plaintiff Rachel Mehl, a triple negative breast cancer survivor who lost 19 eggs, stated: "I remember feeling so confused by UH's initial response to their losing the eggs and embryos of mine and 950+ other families who turned to them because they, too, had no other choice than to attempt IVF. They seemed so cooperative and deeply concerned. I recall being surprised that, in this day and age, an entity would actually take accountability for their mistakes. Now I see that my suspicions were right. UH's concerns extend only so far as their pockets. They have zero regard for the devastation they have caused to so many lives. Zero compassion for the repeated trauma they continue to inflict upon us, the desperate people who entrusted them with the most precious and irreplaceable parts of ourselves."
In its Answer, UH asserts the defense of assumption of the risk. Assumption of the risk is a type of defense that arises when the plaintiff(s) knew of the risks and voluntarily took them on anyway. This is not the case here. Counsel for UH asserts that the affected families signed consent forms that detailed the risks involved with the frozen eggs and/or embryos. While the consent forms do contemplate risks associated with the IVF procedure, the assumption of the risk doctrine does not absolve UH for its negligent, careless or reckless behavior, including failing to timely obtain a replacement tank and turning off the remote alarm. As such, assumption of the risk is not a plausible defense.
Bobby McQuoid and his wife Rebecca, who lost two embryos, stated: "When we read the Answer from UH, we were very confused. We read multiple press releases where UH admitted guilt. Now, here we are, UH is denying responsibility. They say we signed a form that releases liability and we knew the risks. I'm sorry, but those risks don't include UH filling the tanks incorrectly for months and turning off alarms."
UH may have feigned responsibility for the destruction of the eggs and embryos, but they were right about one thing - they cannot give back what was lost.
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SOURCE Spangenberg Shibley & Liber