Sperm recognized as property in B.C. case; donors win $6.2M settlement

 May 20, 2015 - Article courtesy of http://www.nationalpost.com.

Vancouver - The University of B.C. has agreed to compensate hundreds of cancer victims whose sperm was inadvertently destroyed, in a settlement that recognizes for the first time sperm as property. The $6.2-million settlement was reached by both sides in April after years of wrangling in B.C. courts. Sandy Kovacs, lawyer for the donors, hailed the settlement. It provides fair compensation for men who have suffered the loss of ability to have children of their own," said Kovacs on Tuesday.

About 400 men, mostly cancer patients who wanted their sperm preserved for future procreation before undergoing radiation treatment, stored samples with the UBC Andrology Lab for a fee. In 2002, the freezer had a power interruption, which damaged or destroyed the samples.

The long-running class action suit was first filed nearly 12 years ago, but B.C. Supreme Court denied certification. The plaintiffs appealed and in 2011 the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the decision and certified the suit.

 

According to court documents, UBC based its defence on a facility agreement signed by donors waiving UBC's liability in the event of damage to the sperm because of equipment malfunction.

The case turned on whether sperm is considered property under Canadian warehousing law, which does not allow the warehouse owners to insert a clause in an agreement exempting themselves from liability.

In 2013, the judge concluded that the lab was similar to a warehouse, storing goods for a fee, and that sperm is property and falls under the definition of goods under the Warehouse Receipt Act — a precedent-setting decision in Canada, said Kovacs. UBC appealed, but the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the decision in a ruling in January.

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