BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WJW) — Explosive allegations against University Hospitals related to the thousands of embryos that were destroyed during an equipment malfunction three years ago. In a court filing, the former director of the lab where the freezer failed accuses the hospital’s lawyers of covering up or deleting incriminating evidence.
The 79-page document was filed Thursday in Geauga County Common Pleas Court. It is a motion filed by Dr. Andrew Bhatnager to disqualify his former attorney who represented him and University Hospitals as part of lawsuits against UH.
In March 2018, thousands of frozen embryos and eggs were destroyed at a UH lab inside the Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood impacting hundreds of families. According to the motion, Dr. Bhatnager claims lab staff blocked the delivery of critical liquid-nitrogen supplies and disabled the remote alarm that would have alerted him to the rising temperatures.
“Dr. Bhatnager, the former lab director of University Hospitals, was coerced by his attorneys into saying that University Hospitals was far less at fault that it actually is, that Dr. Bhatnager refused to allow some of the lab employees to work by themselves the weekend of the disaster and he was over-ruled on that by people higher up at University Hospitals,” said Adam Wolf, an attorney with Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway.
The law firm, which represents about a hundred families who lost embryos, calls the allegations criminal.
According to the legal document, the former lab director claims to have a conflict of interest with his former attorney, accusing him of engaging in “serious ethical — and potentially criminal — misconduct.”
The court filing also accuses University Hospitals of hiring a law firm “which orchestrated a coverup through coercion, intimidation and unethical gag orders.”
The motion also claims the attorney for UH “directed a third-party witness to destroy documentary evidence that would implicate UH and help exonerate Dr. Bhatmager.”
“These allegations, if proven to be true, show that any settlements we had entered into in the past with University Hospitals were procured through fraud,” said attorney Wolf.
University Hospitals released a statement, reading:
“Dr. Bhatnager and his new legal counsel have chosen to file a motion in which they make a number of false and misleading statements. Because this filing violates a number of legal orders and ethical principles, we will continue to respond to their mischaracterizations in court through the appropriate legal process.”
“I surely hope that it is false, but this is very explicit, detailed testimony by Dr. Bhatnager about a range of criminal actions by University Hospitals and its lawyers,” said Wolf.
The law firm says all but two of its clients have so far settled with University Hospitals. Attorney Adam Wolf says because of these recent accusations they may consider asking for larger settlement amounts if any of it turns out to be true.