Plaintiffs allege Natera negligently allowed contaminants to ruin its embryo testing with entire sample sets being lost for use, then fraudulently concealed the contamination from the public; complaint includes allegations of fraud, failure to warn, strict product liability, manufacturing defects, negligence, and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress to families who just wanted to know if their embryos were healthy
November 19, 2021, San Mateo, California—(BUSINESSWIRE)—The law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announces the filing of a lawsuit against Natera, Inc. alleging negligence, among other claims, over contaminated congenital defect tests that left families with no choice but to abandon what might well have been healthy, viable embryos. The Complaint notes that Natera’s failure to adequately control the quality of its embryo testing and the resulting loss of the costly and arduously and painfully obtained embryos led to devastating emotional damage for the subject families as well as the loss of precious embryos, time, and fertility options.
Natera, Inc. is a clinical genetic testing company based in San Carlos, California that specializes in non-invasive, cell-free DNA testing technology, with a focus on women’s health, cancer, and organ health. Many of Natera’s client families rely on its Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT) to screen out embryos bearing known gene conditions as well as numerous other potential maladies. The success or failure of PGT testing has substantial emotional and psychological ramifications for those seeking to become parents. Losing the options to use embryos provokes fear, devastation, and despair. Many experience grief and anguish when fertility treatment does not result in pregnancy or when they lose fertility choices.
For families who contract with Natera because their familial genes carry a heightened potential for disabling conditions, a “no-results” return on a PGT results in the embryos being wholly unusable, as there is no proof that the suspected and feared conditions are absent in the samples. Due to the rigors of the generation and testing process as well as inherent time constraints, victims lost any hope of using their embryos to have a child and had to start the grueling IVF process all over again.
As the Complaint notes, plaintiffs relied on Natera’s printed and online representations that “the accuracy of Spectrum PGT-M testing is typically greater than 99%” such that their heightened concerns about possible genetic defects in their embryos could be allayed as Natera’s testing program guided them to finding healthy usable embryos for subsequent implantation. Had Natera disclosed that lapses in quality control were rendering entire sample sets useless, plaintiffs would never have risked losing sets of multiple precious and unique embryos by tying their success and viability to Natera’s testing.
“Our clients just wanted a healthy baby, and given their family history as well as two existing children with disabling genetic conditions, relied on Natera and its promises to give them that chance,” noted Lieff Cabraser partner Sarah R. London, who represents the plaintiffs in the case. “Having suffered this tragic and avoidable loss, they were further devastated by Natera’s silence in response to their inquiries for more information about the bizarre and extreme test results that resulted the loss of their precious embryos, as well as by Natera’s subsequent cover-up, unresponsiveness, and questionable treatment of plaintiffs once the test defects came to light. Our clients hope that this lawsuit will shed light on this tragic laboratory failure, so that others who may have been affected can learn the truth and have an opportunity to come forward and seek justice.”
The Complaint observes that as a result of Natera’s grossly deficient performance of their role in the safe and secure testing of Plaintiffs’ embryo cells, Plaintiffs have suffered “foreseeable, serious, life-long harm, and lost the family-planning control that caused them to engage in PGT-M testing in the first place.” As a result of Defendants’ conduct, Plaintiffs suffered emotional trauma, including anxiety, hopelessness, fear, depression, devastation, and grief. Plaintiffs have been thrust into a state of panic about their futures and future family planning.
As the Complaint further details, after Natera’s failure to safeguard and properly test Plaintiffs’ embryonic cells, Natera exacerbated Plaintiffs’ injuries by covering up its employees’ application of a defective chemical reagent to the relevant genetic material and by failing to communicate with clients in a proper manner. These failures include, but are not limited to:
- Failing to communicate with Plaintiffs about the chemical reagent failure in a timely manner, in that after Plaintiffs’ doctor informed Plaintiffs that the embryonic cells received a “no results” finding, Natera did not follow up to discuss the matter with Plaintiffs and forced Plaintiffs to reach out first;
- Failing to respond to Plaintiffs’ IVF doctor in a timely manner after Plaintiffs’ doctor reached out to Natera to inquire further about the testing failure and ultimately only providing minimal answers about the failure a week after Plaintiffs’ doctor first received the results;
- Informing Plaintiffs that Plaintiffs should feel “lucky” that Natera had refrained from involving their lawyers when offering to settle with clients;
- Telling Plaintiffs to feel grateful for Natera’s honesty, even in the face of Plaintiffs’ devastating loss; and
- Attempting to manipulate Plaintiffs into redoing the biopsy of the embryos, despite both the risks a second biopsy would pose to the embryos as well as Plaintiffs’ expressed discomfort in the face of those risks.
The lawsuit sets forth claims for negligent failure to recall, strict products liability, negligence, gross negligence, fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks compensatory, restitutionary, rescissory, general, consequential, punitive, and exemplary damages, as well as injunctive relief to prevent any recurrence of the testing defect and its concealment for future families seeking the best path available to ensuring healthy children.
For more information on the lawsuit, visit lieffcabraser.com/natera.
About Lieff Cabraser
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, is a 119-attorney AV-rated law firm founded in 1972 with offices in San Francisco, New York, Nashville, and Munich. For four decades, Lieff Cabraser has successfully represented women in injury lawsuits against major medical device, medical test, and pharmaceutical drug manufacturers. Described by The American Lawyer as “one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ firms,” Lieff Cabraser enjoys a national reputation for professional integrity and the successful prosecution of our clients’ claims. We possess sophisticated legal skills and the financial resources necessary for the handling of large, complex cases, and for litigating against some of the nation’s largest corporations. We take great pride in the leadership roles our firm plays in many of this country’s major cases, including those resulting in landmark decisions and precedent-setting rulings.
Sarah R. London
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP