Cryostorage failures: a medicolegal review

Christopher P. Moutos, Rana Lahham, John Y. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: To heighten awareness of the potential legal and financial burdens faced by those providing cryopreservation storage services of embryos and gametes in light of recent lawsuits involving inadvertent thawing of specimens. Methods: Case law review of US legal databases and courthouse dockets with a focus on lawsuits against reproductive endocrinologists and cryostorage facilities offering cryopreservation. Emphasis was placed on court decisions, awarded damages, and legal and media coverage related to cryostorage failure events. Results: Lawsuits pertaining to two notable ongoing cases of cryostorage failure that occurred at fertility clinics in the US in 2018 were reviewed. Media coverage of these events and plaintiff and defense attorney strategies were evaluated. Legal documents from previous, similar cryostorage failures were also reviewed. Common claims in cryostorage system failures include breach of contract and negligent handling of property. Facilities offering cryostorage services are vulnerable to significant burden, legally and financially, if they are to experience a storage system failure. Conclusion: Providing cryostorage services is not without significant financial risk. Inadvertent thawing of specimens can lead to high damage awards against cryostorage facilities and those individuals linked to a cryostorage failure event. Because monetary damages can surpass insurance policy limits, those providing cryostorage services should be aware of plaintiff attorney strategies, common legal defenses, and basic asset protection principles to safeguard themselves if ever faced with these situations. Facilities should also carry out regular maintenance and safety checks on equipment and alarm structures to deter such events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1041-1048
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cryopreservation
  • Cryostorage
  • Embryo
  • Liability
  • Medical negligence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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