Litowitz v. Litowitz

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Litowitz v. Litowitz by Mind Map: Litowitz v. Litowitz

1. Issue:

1.1. How should the court resolve a a dispute of what to do with frozen preembryos. Furthermore, should the court uphold previous ruling in favor of respondent and grant rights of preembryos to him. Additionally, should the respondents motion for additional evidence be permitted for review.

1.2. This case is complex due to the fact that previous cases involve disputes where both petitioner and respondent are progenitors, in this case, only the respondent.

2. Facts:

2.1. Parties

2.1.1. Petitioner: Becky M Litowitz

2.1.1.1. ex wife of Respondent David J. Litowitz; married 1982-1998 (1997?)

2.1.1.2. Mother of Jacob Litowitz, only biological son with respondent; she has two children from previous relationship, these children adopted by respondent

2.1.1.3. after giving birth, had a hysterectomy

2.1.1.4. Petitioner and plaintiff decided to have another baby using in vitro and surrogacy

2.1.1.5. Petitioner and Respondent used eggs from an egg donor and respondents sperm to be implanted in surrogate

2.1.1.6. Petitioner and respondent entered into to contract with egg donor and her husband

2.1.1.7. 2 of five preembryos were cryopreserved, 3 implanted in surrogate

2.1.1.8. petitioner and respondent separated before surrogacy pregnancy came to term with birth of their daughter

2.1.1.9. October 26, 1998: in response to respondent petitioner indicated that she wanted remaining frozen preembryos implanted in surrogate and brought to term

2.1.2. Respondent: David J. Litowitz

2.1.2.1. ex husband of petitioner

2.1.2.2. October 21, 1998 respondent stated wish for remaining embryos (the two frozen) to be put up for adoption

2.1.2.3. originally court ruled in favor of respondent

2.2. Cryopreservation contract

2.2.1. March 25, 1996 Petitioner and Respondent sign contract with cryopreservation and in vitro fertilization with Loma Linda Center

2.2.1.1. Contract terms explicitly define that decisions about preembryos must be mutual, and that a court will intervene in the case of disagreement/inability to reach mutual decision

2.2.1.2. Contract defined that preembryos would only be frozen for 5 years unless both parties requested mutual extension

2.3. Procedural History

2.3.1. Trail Court

2.3.1.1. December 11, 1998: Ruling in favor of Respondent.

2.3.1.1.1. Judge rules that it is in the best interest of the child to respect respondent wish to put up preembryos for adoption, that the alternatives of bringing preembryos to term to be cared for by petitioner, is not in the best interest of the child

2.3.1.1.2. Judge also stays order on preembryos and restraining order on petitioner until case closed, including appeals

2.3.1.1.3. January 7, 1998 court appointed guardian ad litem for the remaining preembryos

2.3.2. Court of Appeals upholds Trial court ruling. Adding that respondents right not procreate "compelled the court" to rule in his favor, giving preembryo dispositon decision to him

2.3.3. November 16, 2000 Petitioner requested review by Supreme Court Washington

2.3.4. April 12, 2001: petitioner request granted

2.3.5. May 8, 2001: respondent requests to submit additional evidence

2.3.5.1. Submits evidence of petitioners drug use, attempted murder by hiring thrid party, and unfitness to be a parent

2.3.5.2. argues for custody and requests court to consider evidence from Superior Court child custody case

3. Rule of law

3.1. contractual right

3.1.1. A contract has the following elements: all parties must be legally competent to enter contract; the must be an offer and an acceptance of that offer; Consideration must be given (payment or other fullfillment of a promise); the purpose must be legal (used for legal purposes)

3.1.1.1. contract is written that in the event of disagreement a court must be petitioned for instructions regarding disposition

3.1.1.2. contract grants equal rights to egg despite egg from egg donor

3.2. Intent

3.2.1. the intentions of entering into contract must be considered from both at the time, and in relation to current intent in current circumstances

3.3. right not to reproduce

3.3.1. the court did not apply this law in this case in The Supreme Court, in fact, most of the cases have avoided the issue by focusing on contract law.

4. Analysis/Application

4.1. Petitioner's side

4.1.1. argues for use of term child rather than preembryo nd that she has constitutional right to custody and companionship of child

4.1.1.1. Court chose not to interpret use of preembryo vs. child, not the issue at hand in this case. Court points out that since it is unknown if preembryos even still exist, since 5 year time limit had passed, that they could not continue to discuss that topic with relevance to case at hand

4.1.2. Contract

4.1.2.1. claims that the Court of Appeals was "internally inconsistent" meaning it extinguished the rights of one party in the contract (egg donor) and allowed rights of respondent to supersede those of egg donor, basically that the egg donor needed to also consent to putting preembryos up for adoption

4.1.2.2. She claims that the contract she and respondent signed gives her rights to preembryo's even though she is not the progenitor, she is the "intended mother"

4.2. Respondent's side

4.2.1. Wants to submit additional evidence for review to show unfitness of petitioner o be a parent

4.2.2. Contract

4.2.2.1. Claims brought before the court are based on cryopreservation contact, not egg donor contract and therefore argues that Petitioners claims are not applicable in this case.

4.2.2.1.1. Supreme Court upholds Court of Appeals interpretation of contract, upholds that egg donor is not relevant for issue at hand; furthermore egg donor contract applicable to eggs prior to fertilization, not after which is case for preembryo

4.3. Supreme Court Decision

4.3.1. The supreme court ruled based on the Contract (which met all elements of a legal contract) with cryopreservation center. The argument was that since contract is written that if after 5 years, they parties have not requested an extension the preembryos would be thawed out and disposed of. Since the 5 year term had passed at the time of this case, the courts decision was to let the preembryos be destroyed, if they had not already been so. This was departure from lower court rulings which had ruled in favor of respondent.

4.3.1.1. Relevant case law: the following four cases all involvd couplesi n dispute where both the woman and man were the progenitor. The Litowitz case was the first where the woman had a contractual right as intended mother, but was not the egg donor.

4.3.1.1.1. Davis vs. Davis

4.3.1.1.2. Kass v Kass

4.3.1.1.3. A.Z. v B.Z

4.3.1.1.4. J.B v M.B

4.3.1.2. The court claimed to use several different methods of calculations to determine 5 year period and found that under no circumstances did the pre-embryos fall within that time limit

4.3.2. Supreme court denies this request

4.3.2.1. court provided 6 criteria for reasonable review of evidence to continue, criteria not met

5. Importance

5.1. IVF clinics must know the status of their inventory. For example, if the IVF clinic had not destroyed the pre-embryos, then does that change the way a decision might be made, especially if the egg donor had become involved? Additonally, clinics must have a way of being informed about the contracts that are being disupted. Perhaps this happens, but managing how a contract is affected in the case of a legal case is essential for clinics to consider. For example, should the "clock" have frozen, as some dissenters suggest while the case was being decided?

5.2. This case also opened the door to many more conversations about what happens to frozen genetic material that can potential be used to create life.

6. Impact

6.1. This case highlighted the complexities that accompany reproductive technology especially when third party donors are involved.

6.1.1. The Litowitz case is famous because of the complexities. Other cases, such as the Roman frozen embryo case in Texas, followed the lower court rulings from the Litowitz case, favoring the respondents right not to be an unwilling parent.

7. Influence

7.1. Regarding business factors, this case underscores the need for explicitly written contracts that can manage as many possible scenarios they may arise, perhaps this lends to using more general language to be more inclusive rather than creating a document that is exclusive. However, contracts must account for when couples separate or divorce. This means that business that provide services, especially ones that relate to sensitive healthcare issues, there is a need to invest in legal expertise to prepare the contracts and potentially to protect the clinic from vulnerabilities in disputes related to their services.

8. Conclusion

8.1. The supreme court reversed the lower courts rulings and based the final judgment on the contract and order the preembryos to be thawed and destroyed per terms of the contract