At the end of January, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana made a ruling in the ongoing fight for custody of the pre-embryos that had been frozen by Sofia Vergara and her then-fiancé Nick Loeb. The pre-embryos, which is an embryo that is within its first 14 days of fertilization, were harvested and frozen during an IVF procedure at the ART Reproductive Center in 2013 while the couple was still together.
In the ruling obtained by People, the court documents show that the case was dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction, something the court calls out as a blatant attempt of “forum shopping” — as in, Loeb’s lawyers searched for whatever locality would hear his case, rather than the place where he or Vergara live or had this procedure.
“Furthermore, based on all of the facts ascertained through the deposition testimony, exhibits, affidavits and allegations contained in Appellant’s petition and first amended complaint, it is clear that Mr. Loeb blatantly engaged in forum shopping when he selected, in concert with a member of the bar … Plaquemines Parish to file the instant lawsuit, with full knowledge that it was the improper venue,” the documents state. “Their behavior brings disrepute to and makes a mockery of the Louisiana legal system and the bar and is abhorrent.”
The couple called off their engagement in 2014 (and Vergara has since married Joe Manganiello), and immediately the legal drama began. Vergara wanted the pre-embryos destroyed, while Loeb sued to prevent that. Later, in an attempt to block Loeb from using the pre-embryos with another woman, she filed legal documents in California requiring her written consent for any use of them.
The battle has been raging on since then. Loeb’s previous attempt at custody was dismissed, which is how the appeal ended up before a Louisiana judge. The state is the only one where such a trial can currently take place, since it’s the only one where embryos are deemed “juridical persons,” according to Slate. In the legal gymnastics that needed to be performed in order to get this case to court, Loeb’s legal team initially sued Vergara on behalf of the embryos “Emma” and “Isabella” who were been frozen at “five days old developmentally.”
The case that was dismissed was an attempt to nullify the original contract the two had signed that stated neither party would implant the embryos without the consent of each party. It also serves to highlight the need for legally binding contracts when all stages of custody are involved, including IVF.
One of the members of Loeb’s legal team has responded with a stereotypical “you haven’t seen the last of us,” noting plans to take the matter to the state’s supreme court, but Vergara’s team has yet to comment on the matter. We hope Vergara is sleeping a little easier tonight knowing that at least for now, the law is on her side.
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