Freezer Co. Hit With $15M Verdict Over Destroyed Embryos

A California federal jury found freezer manufacturer Chart Industries Inc. liable for the damage to and destruction of harvested eggs and embryos stored in its defective equipment, awarding nearly $15 million to the patients affected by a 2018 cryopreservation tank implosion.

Chart knew its tank controller was defective but failed to recall or retrofit it, a substantial factor in the harm caused to the five patients whose eggs and embryos were compromised in the incident in San Francisco-based Pacific Fertility Center’s facility.

The fertility center was also negligent, the jury found, though it deemed Chart responsible for 90% of the patients’ harm. 

In total, the jury awarded $14.98 million in economic and noneconomic damages to the patients.

Dena C. Sharp of Girard Sharp LLP described the cryogenic tank to the jury as an oversized coffee Thermos, with a vacuum-insulated layer between inner and outer chambers. The Thermos-like tank developed a crack, allowing liquid nitrogen — in which the eggs and embryos were submerged — to leak out of the inner chamber and into the vacuum insulated chamber. This led to the inner vessel’s implosion.

The jury returned its verdict after an emotional 12-day trial, in which jurors heard about the heartbreak that followed the March 4, 2018, tank failure.


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