IRVINE, Calif. – A group of women anguished over having their eggs and embryos stolen and placed in other women were told by a judge it is too late to sue.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Sundvold on Friday dismissed eight lawsuits sparked by the University of California Irvine fertility clinic scandal of the 1990s, saying the cases should have been filed within three years of myriad newspaper articles that began appearing in 1995.
"The patients didn't know their eggs were stolen, so they weren't put on notice for a claim," argued Manuel Corrales, an attorney for the women.
But Sundvold said at least 100 newspaper stories about the matter appeared in 1995 and that the "widespread and pervasive nature" of the publicity should have spurred the victims to act.
The women's attorneys also argued that the publicity was largely limited to Orange County, where few of the women live.
"I thought (the judge) had no conscience," said Rosalinda Elison, whose eggs were taken during treatment for reversal of a tubal ligation and implanted in a woman who gave birth to twins.
Elison moved from Riverside County to the high desert near Lancaster in 1997, and was never contacted by UC Irvine.
The cases were among about 30 filed in 2002 and 2003 by women who unknowingly had their eggs and embryos implanted in barren women.
After the scandal became known, the university pledged that its "first priority" would be to locate the women.
The university has acknowledged it failed to contact at least 20 couples and has settled six of the cases, all filed against the University of California system. But it has also fought some cases in court, saying the scandal's enormous publicity should have been sufficient warning.