3 Pittsburgh-area women suing Cleveland fertility clinic

April 9, 2018 GMT

Three Pittsburgh-area women, all cancer patients, are suing University Hospitals health system in Cleveland, University Hospitals Ahuja and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, for losing eggs they had in storage in the hopes of one day starting a family.

Lawsuits from Rachel Mehl, 40, and Sarah Deer, 27, were filed Monday. A lawsuit for Danelle Yerkey, 37, will reportedly be filed later in the week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The women are being represented by women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred. All three women delayed chemotherapy for breast cancer in order to preserve their eggs in the hopes of one day having a family.

“These three women had a right to expect that if they underwent fertility treatments and entrusted their eggs to be preserved, that those to whom their eggs were entrusted would fulfill their legal and moral duty to protect them,” Allred said. “Unfortunately, these three cancer survivors have been devastated to learn that their trust has been betrayed.”

Last week, UH said more than 4,000 eggs and embryos from 950 patients are likely no longer viable after a storage tank failure. At the time it happened in early March, UH said the failure involved 2,000 eggs and embryos, and 700 patients.

“My hopes and dreams have been shattered. I have no idea how I will go on ... everything has been stolen from me and my spirit is crushed,” Danelle Yerkey told Fox 8 television station in Cleveland.

In a letter sent to impacted patients last week, UH also said the clinic knew the tank was not working properly for several weeks. The health system said an auto-fill system that adds liquid nitrogen to the tank to keep eggs and embryos frozen was not working, and employees were manually filling the tank for several weeks.

An alarm system on the tank designed to alert employees to temperature changes was off, the letter said.

“They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees,” Allred said in a press conference. “Of course no amount of money will ever be able to compensate them for the loss of their eggs or the chance to have biological children. We believe, however, that the cost of the wrong that these cancer survivors have been forced to suffer should be borne by the wrongdoers and not by the victims.”