Cleveland — A Judge has decided not to rule on whether all of the more than 900 cases filed against the University Hospitals fertility clinic should be consolidated.
The ruling stated that all of the other judges who are handling or haven't yet been assigned to the cases can't agree on whether or not to consolidate them. So, the judge asking an administrative judge to make the decision.
In the meantime, WKYC has learned the hospital has been reaching out to attorneys to try and settle cases.
"I’ve been doing medical malpractice for 30 years. In those years I can count on one hand, no matter how egregious the wrong has been, where somebody has called and said we are at fault," Eric Kennedy, Attorney with Weisman, Kennedy & Berris, said. "It just doesn't happen."
That could prove a fatal blow for University Hospitals. If a judge finds them negligent in this fertility failure, their financial exposure could be huge.
When asked if the hospital was at risk of sinking, Kennedy said, "Nothing's out of the realm of possibilities. There would be issues as to how many different punitive damage awards you can have on any given case."
Kennedy represents more than a dozen clients who lost eggs and embryos when the hospital’s cryo storage tank rose to deadly temperatures. He said the hospital's been reaching out on a regular basis to settle the cases.
“Are they motivated by self interest in attempting to preserve the reputation going forth? Of course," he added. "But are they also genuinely concerned about these people? Sure."
In addition to punitive damages, which are designed to punish the hospital, there could be compensatory damages for pain and suffering. Those would vary widely depending on whether a person was, for example, simply storing them as a backup, or was a cancer patient whose chances of children could be gone forever.
"I screamed and fell to my knees in the kitchen," Danielle Yerkey, who is suing the hospital, said. "I felt as I was dying, and I wanted to die."
No matter how the judge rules on consolidating the cases, people can still file individual suits. What they can get all depends on whether these cases are ruled medical malpractice or something else.
"I’m a woman wounded," Sarah Deer said. "Robbed by cancer of my health and body that I once knew and robbed by University Hospitals of my future."
Consolidating the cases is simply done to make handling them all easier. For example, instead of having a hospital technician deposed more than 900 times, he or she can do it once and it will be shared by all of the attorneys.