A San Francisco jury awarded $15 million to five people who suffered emotional distress after a tank failure at the Pacific Fertility Center in 2018 destroyed about 3,500 frozen eggs and embryos.
An image of jury seats.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

When a San Francisco fertility clinic's cryogenic storage tank failed, hopeful parents lost their eggs or embryos. Three years after a lawsuit was filed, three women and one married couple were granted nearly $15 million by a federal jury in early June. 

While that wasn't the first time equipment malfunctioned at a fertility clinic and affected eggs and embryos, this is the first time victims were awarded for the damages that caused unimaginable emotional distress and pain. 

"To our knowledge, this is the first jury award for a case involving the destruction of embryos and eggs. 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. The jury's decision to hold Chart, the tank manufacturer, accountable for this tragedy is a historic step in the right direction," attorney Adam Wolf of Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, which is handling the cases of more than 100 Pacific Fertility Center victims, said in a statement. Wolf also notes the loose regulations of U.S. fertility clinics allowing for wrongdoings.

In March 2018, equipment at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco had "lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time" and destroyed about 3,500 frozen eggs and embryos, according to news reports. "We are truly sorry this happened and for the anxiety that this will surely cause," the center said at the time, CNN reported.

During the trial, Chloe Poynton, a 39-year-old victim who lost nine eggs, said, "It's really painful to be at a baby shower celebrating someone else's family being built and knowing inside you'll never get that." Poynton added, "So you start to pull back. You start to isolate."

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that the manufacturer Chart Industries, Inc. was 90 percent at fault for producing a defective tank, while the fertility center was 10 percent to blame. According to reports, Chart knew about the defect after selling the equipment but did not fix the issue or recall it.

The couple affected was awarded $7.2 million, while the three women were given around $2 million to $3 million each. Hundreds of other people have also sued Chart and the clinic.

"We will work tirelessly to make sure that all of the victims of this tragedy receive the justice they deserve. Chart, Pacific Fertility Center, and all other responsible parties must be held fully accountable for their actions that destroyed our clients' eggs and embryos," says Wolf.