By Alexandra Meeks, CNN
A lawsuit filed by a Southern California couple says a Los Angeles-based fertility clinic implanted the wrong embryos into two women during in vitro fertilization procedures, resulting in a life-changing mix-up for two families who unknowingly gave birth to children that weren’t theirs and raised them for several months.
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale, residents of Los Angeles County, were customers of the California Center for Reproductive Health and Dr. Eliran Mor in 2019, according to the lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit says they entrusted Mor and the fertility clinic to complete the IVF procedure after years of trying for a second child with no luck. While they were thrilled by the birth of a healthy baby girl, Alexander Cardinale was shocked and confused by the baby’s appearance.
He “expected to see a fair child, much like their older daughter. Instead, their birth daughter came out with much darker skin and jet-black hair,” the lawsuit says. “She looked to be of a different race, which made no sense in light of Daphna and Alexander’s respective backgrounds.”
About eight weeks later, a DNA test proved the child Daphna birthed was not related to her or her husband, the lawsuit says. Instead, it was determined Daphna and Alexander’s embryo was transferred to another couple who carried their biological child to term.
“I was robbed of the ability to carry my own child,” Daphna Cardinale said in an emotional news conference Monday. “I never had the opportunity to grow and bond with her during pregnancy, to feel her kick, or to watch her in ultrasounds.”
According to the Cardinales’ attorney, Alexander and Daphna learned that the CCRH fertility clinic outsourced the handling of their embryo to In VitroTech Labs, Inc., a third-party embryology lab, and its parent company, Beverly Sunset Surgical Associates.
The lawsuit states that both companies are owned by Mor. It’s unclear what errors took place or where, but the lawsuit alleges the defendants “recklessly, negligently, and/or knowingly lost or actively decided to give” the Cardinales’ embryos to another couple, while implanting the wrong embryo in Daphna.
CNN has reached out to Mor, the California Center for Reproductive Health and In Vitro Tech Labs for comment on the allegations. The other couple was not identified in the lawsuit.
“Daphna and Alexander did not even know of their biological daughter’s existence until she was three months old,” the lawsuit says. “Another month passed before they would finally bring her home for good. Meanwhile, they were forced to give up forever the daughter whom Daphna carried to term and to whom their whole family had irrevocably bonded.”
On December 31, 2019, the two couples met each other with the babies, according to the Cardinales’ attorney. A little over two weeks later, the babies had their first overnight stays with their new families who agreed the infants would stay in their new homes since the “constant switching was just too hard emotionally,” according to the lawsuit.
“The long-term consequences of this baby swap continue to haunt their entire family,” the lawsuit says. “Instead of breastfeeding her own biological child, Daphna breastfed and bonded with a child she was forced to give away.”
The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and seeks other damages that are not specified at this time.
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