CHLA Failed to Update “Ancient” Cryogenic Freezer That Should Have Been Replaced in 1998 … And Then Turned Off The Alarms! Young Child With High-Risk Cancer Dependent on Stem Cells for Treatment is One of 56 Victims of CHLA.
LOS ANGELES///August 19, 2020///When the cryogenic freezer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) containing precious stem cells for 56 children suffering from cancer finally failed, the disaster happened 21 years after CHLA should have replaced the freezer … and months after CHLA deliberately turned off the alarms warning them that the freezer was becoming unstable and starting to fail, according to a lawsuit filed today by Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway (Peiffer Wolf) on behalf of a Los Angeles area child identified as “EF” and his parents. Peiffer Wolf is representing multiple families devastated by CHLA; more families are expected to seek justice in the coming weeks.
Today, EF and his parents filed a complaint against CHLA in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, with multiple allegations, including but not limited to negligence, fraudulent concealment, and breach of contract. When CHLA issued a form-letter apology for the cryogenic freezer failure in September 2019, it claimed that the stem cells were not needed and that no child was at risk. The harshly different reality faced by the 56 high-risk cancer patients who lost all of their stem cells is made clear in the complaint filed in court today.
EF, like the other children whose stem cells were destroyed by CHLA, suffers from a particularly aggressive cancer for which stem-cell treatment is vital. EF suffers from high-risk/stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare cancer. EF’s cancer was first discovered in 2014. By that time, it had spread throughout his body. In fact, the day EF was diagnosed he had emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor, and he remained in the hospital for nearly a month thereafter. Unfortunately, and as is sadly typical for neuroblastoma patients, EF’s cancer has relapsed three times in his young life. EF’s health — and even life — is at risk today as the result of the destruction of his stem cells.
Linda Wratten, the mother of EF, said: “We trusted Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with our son’s precious stem cells because we believed their claims of excellence and high standards. Now, we live in terror that CHLA’s misconduct could cost us our son’s life when he needs the stem cells that they destroyed. This is a complete violation of our faith and trust; it’s catastrophic and no parent should ever have to experience this.
Timothy Wratten, the father of EF, said: “Our son has been fighting cancer since he was 13 months old, and it’s unthinkable that CHLA would use an ancient cryogenic freezer that should have been replaced decades ago. The fact that they turned off the alarms on this freezer when our son’s stem cells were being held in there is just inconceivable to me. Nothing can replace our son’s stem cells that were destroyed that day, but we can fight beside our son to hold CHLA accountable and make sure this never happens again.”
Adam Wolf, partner, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, said: “What happened at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is tragic. And it was completely avoidable. 56 children who are fighting cancer had the rug pulled out from under them by the institution that was supposed to be helping them. The stem cells were destroyed as a direct result of shocking and intentional misconduct by CHLA. EF’s stem cells were both a lifeline and a safety net for him and his family. Having these stem cells available provided them with vital peace-of-mind that they were protected now and into the future. CHLA destroyed that.”
CHLA deliberately stored EF’s stem cells in a freezer that CHLA knew was already nearly two decades past the freezer’s life expectancy. CHLA’s complete disregard for EF’s stem cells was compounded by its decision to intentionally disable the alarm system that was intended to monitor the freezer and alert CHLA personnel if the temperature in its ancient freezer rose to unsafe levels.
Beginning in or around the summer of 2019, the alarm on the CHLA freezer sounded repeatedly, alerting CHLA personnel that the freezer was in flux and not maintaining proper levels. Rather than replace the freezer, or merely move its contents to another storage tank, CHLA instead opted to simply disable the alarm and continue to operate the freezer without benefit of continuous monitoring or any safeguard to alert staff in the event of equipment malfunction.
As the Wratten family’s complaint notes: “CHLA’s decision was made in spite of its awareness that an alarm system is an industry-standard component for this type of cryogenic freezer, as well as a critical safeguard necessary to alert CHLA personnel to potentially dangerous conditions in the CHLA freezer tank before its contents were damaged.”
As a result, CHLA left young EF virtually defenseless against a reoccurrence of his neuroblastoma. As CHLA’s own doctors put it, the family’s “best option at this point is to hope and pray.”
The law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway maintains offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, Austin, and New Orleans. Peiffer Wolf has handled numerous cases in which facilities were accused of either destroying or losing eggs, embryos and other genetic material. This is a highly technical area of law and science and individuals seeking legal representation would be well advised to look to a law firm that has successfully dealt with such cases in the past.
MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin at (703) 276-3255 or [email protected]
EDITOR’S NOTE: This news release and video from today’s news event will be available as of 4 p.m. PDT/7 p.m. EDT on August 19, 2020 at www.peifferwolf.com.
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