Judge allows UBC to withdraw "admission" in court fight over semen samples
UBC has won a procedural victory in a nine-year-old lawsuit over the fate of semen samples.
Today, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler ruled that UBC is entitled to withdraw an admission filed in a statement of defence back in 2003.
The samples were harmed on May 24, 2002 when a freezer malfunctioned in the andrology lab at UBC Hospital. This prompted a class-action suit involving hundreds of people.
UBC argued that it had filed its statement of defence based on incomplete information—one facility agreement—when there were, in fact, more than 400 people who signed contracts.
Butler declared in his decision that if UBC wasn't permitted to withdraw its admission, "it could mean that the action is decided on a fiction."
"The potential for injustice in that situation is magnified where, as here, the proceeding is a class action," he added. "The determination of liability for hundreds of class members should not be made on the basis of an admission that may be incorrect. It should certainly be avoided in these circumstances where the prejudice in permitting the withdrawal is minimal."
In its 2003 statement of defence, UBC admitted that it contracted with the plaintiff, Howard Lam, "for the storage of sperm samples through the Andrology Lab", Butler wrote.
Five years later, UBC filed an amended statement of defence, stating that around 2000, the sperm-banking service in the andrology lab was transfered to UBC from the Vancouver Hospital and Health Science Centre.
UBC now claims that "it is an express term of the Facility Agreement that UBC or the Andrology Lab would not be liable to the sperm donor for destruction of or damage to the sperm samples," Butler stated in his ruling.
The representative plaintiff, Lam, has named the following companies as third parties in the case: Arpel Industries Ltd., Arpel Security Systems Ltd., Arpel Security and Monitoring Ltd., Enerand Holdings Ltd., Peter Moore, Thermo Forma Inc., Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Mallinckrodt, Inc.. and Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.