Lieff Cabraser partner Sarah R. London testified today at the California Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing in San Francisco, in favor of AB 556, regarding the misuse of eggs, embryos and sperm.
The bill would authorize a private cause of action for damages against a person who misuses sperm, ova, or embryos in violation of its provisions. The bill would specify that a prevailing plaintiff who suffers harm as a result of such a violation may be awarded actual damages or statutory damages of not less than $50,000.
Sarah currently serves as Liaison Counsel on a case arising out of the lab and freezer failures that took place at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco in 2018. The clients she represents are among the nearly 600 women and families who learned that the eggs and embryos that they had been assured were being safely stored until needed had been destroyed, or at best severely compromised.
Sarah’s testimony before the Committee focused on the shock, pain, grief, and betrayal felt by those who suffer the devastating loss of their stored genetic material in fertility industry equipment failures. She referenced information from an NBC investigation into the industry that found that patchwork regulations and self-oversight create a lack of clear, consistent standards and accountability. She discussed instances where clinics were equipped with insufficient alarm and back-up systems—even though such measures were advertised to assure prospective customers that their eggs and embryos would be kept safe.
Sarah also provided testimony on donor fraud, another harrowing situation experienced by far too many families. Donor fraud occurs when an assisted reproductive medicine physician knowingly swaps the sperm or ova sample selected by the patient with that of another. This happens without the patient’s consent, and sometimes even involves the physician using a sample of their own genetic material in the procedure. Sarah stressed the fact that women undergoing the grueling process of fertility treatments must place their full trust in their doctors and technicians, and yet face the risk of being betrayed by the very people in whom they place their trust.
Sarah’s testimony further covered how many fertility clinic issues do not come to light because of forced arbitration clauses that delay or remove access to justice and public accountability. And since many fertility companies are private business entities operating outside the formal medical system, they do not even have a requirement to carry a minimum level of insurance. In conclusion, she noted that these myriad problems highlight how the fertility industry is ripe for fraud and abuse, noting that AB 556 recognizes that enumerated civil remedies are needed for the devastating, highly personal and emotional losses caused by donor fraud and fertility industry failures.
About Sarah London
A member of the Consumer Attorneys of California Convention Leadership Committee and a partner in Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, Sarah R. London is a determined, skilled, and experienced advocate for the injured, employees, and consumers. She is experienced in all aspects of trial work, from drafting and arguing motions in limine, opposing Daubert challenges to plaintiffs’ experts and deposing defendants’ experts, and serving as lead trial counsel to writing successful post-trial and appellate briefs. Sarah’s case work involvement includes: the Florida Tobacco litigation, Zofran Infant Injury lawsuits, the Toyota Sudden Acceleration litigation, the Norvir antitrust case, Pacific Fertility Clinic Egg and Embryo Preservation Failures, the Gilead HIV Drug Kidney & Bone Injuries litigation, and the nationwide multidistrict Juul e-cigarette fraud and injury litigation. A 2020 Super Lawyer, Super Lawyers Rising Star for eight consecutive years and 2015 finalist for the Consumer Attorneys of California Streetfighter of the Year Award, Sarah has held multiple leadership positions in CAOC.