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First Settlement in Sperm Loss Cases at Northwestern

On Thursday afternoon, June 4, 2015, a 35-year-old man identified in court papers as "John Anonymous" reached a settlement of his case against Northwestern Faculty Foundation arising out of the destruction of the sperm he banked at Northwestern. The injured party was diagnosed in 2011 with testicular cancer and, on the advice of his doctors, banked sperm for future use since his cancer treatment would render him sterile. Unfortunately, Northwestern Faculty Foundation, the operator of the sperm storage business, stored all of John's samples in one tank and that tank failed in 2012. John's samples thawed and were rendered useless. Due to his cancer treatment, he is unable to conceive a child.

At a mediation conference chaired by former Appellate Justice Michael Gallagher and former Circuit Judge Hollis Webster, the Faculty Foundation agreed to pay the injured party $1,000,000. The Faculty Foundation was represented by John Duffy of Donohue, Brown, Mathewson and Smyth, Chicago (312-422-0995). The Foundation is pursuing contribution claims against parties responsible for the storage tank, its alarm system and other companies involved in the service.

"John Anonymous" was given leave of court to pursue his case with a fictitious name to protect his privacy. Illinois law permits parties to use fictitious names for good cause. The injured party was represented by Bruce Pfaff and Scott Steadman of Pfaff, Gill & Ports, Chicago (312-828-9666) along with Stewart Orzoff, Northbrook.

This case was consolidated for pretrial hearings along with more than 50 others. In this case, Mr. Pfaff succeeded in obtaining partial summary judgment in his client's favor on three of the four elements necessary to prove bailment. None of the other plaintiffs have obtained that relief, and Pfaff said, obtaining those court rulings was very helpful in isolating the only issues disputed between his client and the Foundation. The Foundation's primary defense pointed to the samples provided by John - the Foundation maintained they were impaired and unlikely to lead to a successful pregnancy.

Mr. Pfaff commented that his client is relieved to reach this settlement agreement-- "he works 6-7 days per week to make ends meet and these funds will help him immensely."

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