MOBILE — The Supreme Court of Alabama is set to hear the cases of three families seeking compensation after they claim a patient at Mobile Infirmary destroyed their embryos.

The three families had embryos stored at the facility. On Dec. 20, 2020, a patient “eloped from his hospital room,” according to the complaint, then went into the fertility clinic and embryology laboratory and removed the plaintiff’s embryos.

“It is believed that the cryopreservation subzero temperatures burned the eloped Mobile Infirmary hospital patient’s hands causing him or her to drop the cryopreserved embryonic human beings on the floor where they began to slowly die,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs claimed wrongful death and negligence, arguing the hospital should have protected the area where the embryos were being stored. They also said the patient should not have had access to that part of the hospital.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that even if Alabama law does not consider the embryos as “embryotic children,” the clients should be entitled to compensatory damages for the cost of the embryos, severe mental anguish and emotional distress.

Mobile County Circuit Judge Jill Parrish Phillips dismissed the cases after the defendants argued that “Alabama law does not recognize or support a finding that an extrauterine, in vitro, cryopreserved embryo, not yet implanted or developing in utero, is a ‘minor child.”

The judge offered case law where the Supreme Court denied similar claims. Furthermore, compensatory damages were denied because the court concluded that those types of damages are not permitted under Alabama Law.

“It is well-established in this state that the only damages a civil jury may assess for the ‘wrongful’ taking of a life are punitive damages,” the order read.

The judge said the court cannot override the state’s legislative intent or public policy on the matters presented.

The plaintiffs appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Alabama on April 20, 2022. The cases are docketed in the Supreme Court for Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the defendant have not responded to a media inquiry.

Order dismissing case by Erica Thomas on Scribd

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