Louisiana Allows Embryos to Sue their Parents

In January, 2017, I was  asked by a Times-Picayune reporter to give my opinion on the Jefferson Parish case involving actress Sofia Vergara and her unborn embryos, which are being held in cryogenic storage in California, much to the ire of their biological father, Nick Loeb.

The upshot is this:  In Louisiana, embryos have legal personality, meaning that just like you and I, they can sue in court, even though, in this case, the embryos have not only not been born, but have not even been implanted in a woman’s uterus yet.

Biology aside, this is a very interesting case.  Vergara and Loeb created two embryos, now being called Emma and Isabella, and they were put into storage for a later time.  The couple then broke up, and the embryos remained in storage.  At some point a trust fund was set up for the benefit of these unborn children, and the trust was established here, in Louisiana.

The embryos, Emma and Isabella, have filed suit against their mother. They  insist that they have been abandoned and neglected by Vergara, who has chosen not to carry the embryos yet in her womb.   The suit requests that the embryos be implanted in a surrogate, and that Vergara’s rights as a parent be terminated. Once born, Nick Loeb proposes to have sole custody of the girls, and Sofia Vergara would have no rights to the children, or presumably to the trust established for their benefit.

There has never been a case like this before in the country, and Louisiana is the only place in America where this could happen, because of laws allowing unborn embryos to assume legal personality and sue their parents.

Since the filing late last year, Sofia Vergara has managed to move the suit to Federal Court, where she has claimed it should be dismissed altogether.  She has argued that Louisiana is not the proper state in which to make arguments concerning the embryos, which are being housed in California, and that there are certain indispensable parties, namely Nick Loeb and the facility holding the embryos, who were not named in the original lawsuit.  It will be interesting to see if the law permitting the creation of the trust and giving these embryos the power to sue will be strong enough to allow Louisiana to retain jurisdiction over the suit.  I for one am watching closely to see what happens next.