Jan 232012
Authors: Sarah Fenton

After 20-foot flames tore through a CSU research center last July, clients of the CSU Equine Reproduction Laboratory (ERL) have reserved their right to sue CSU for damages through the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

Although the lawsuits have yet to be filed, many of the 175 clients who entrusted their reproductive material, such as horse semen, eggs and embryos, to the CSU lab have been considering their options.

The fire was deemed an accident, according to CSU Spokeswoman Dell Rae Mollenberg. However, despite this, many clients still feel CSU officials could have handled the situation differently.

Among them is Charlie Cox, who lost approximately $50,000 in genetic material after the fire.

“I never heard from the university until almost a week later when I got an email,” Cox said.

Cox felt the message was impersonal and insensitive.

“Two thirds of the email was soliciting a donation to rebuild the lab. Not a word about the fact that I had samples in there, which were potentially destroyed,” Cox said.

“I would call to find out what had happened to my samples, and the people in the lab were as helpful as they could be. But I had a great deal of difficulty getting the people in the office of the general counsel to return my calls,” he said.

Cox said that additional information regarding his samples and possible insurance claims was not easy to get a hold of throughout the fall and winter months.

It wasn’t until Dec. 31, that he and the other clients who had lost samples received official notification from the university that they could only offer a $1,000 credit to future ERL services.

According to Mollenberg, the university acknowledges that ERL clients are upset; however, the institution is “not responsible for insuring client property that was stored at the ERL.”

For Cox, the decision to store samples of reproductive material at ERL was an investment in the future.

By storing material from one stallion, Cox said he could have used the material in the future to produce up to 12 foals. In fact, his timeline on this was to begin using the materials this year.

After collecting material from the stallion, Cox had the horse gelded, which meant that collecting from the horse again was impossible. Since his horse was no longer able to provide material, the credit was meaningless.

Because of this, Cox said that he had started looking at his options from a legal standpoint. What he found was an opportunity to reserve the right within 180 days to sue the university as a state institution under the Colorado Governmental immunity act.

After finding this out and sharing it with other clients, Cox said that he started getting phone calls from clients from all over the country with questions about the process, which includes filing a legal notice with Colorado’s Attorney Feneral’s office.

Among them was Shirley Hoffman, a horse breeder who told the Denver Post her losses were around $200,000.

“That is nothing compared to what others have in there,” Hoffman told the Denver Post.

Hoffman also said that she planned to file her notice with the Attorney General’s office sometime around last Saturday.

For Cox, what remains is a hope that CSU will make a better effort in how they treat their “valued costumers.” While it is an option for him to utilize the ERL in the future, he said that his decision to do so largely depends on the university.

“I think there are a lot of things that can be done going forward. And I hope that that will be taken into consideration in the design and rebuilding of the new lab,” Cox said. “If they take a hard lock position on this and do not want to help make good my losses, I have plenty of other places that I can go.”

According to Mollenberg, the university does intend on doing so in every possible capacity.

“Again, this is a tragic and unfortunate accident. In addition to supporting our clients, the university is focused on rebuilding the facilities and continuing their services,” Mollenberg wrote in an email to the Collegian.

ASCSU Beat Reporter Sarah Fenton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Equine Reproductive Lab

  • Research lab intended to offer mare services, stallion services, foaling services and assisted
  • Reproduction services
  • Has become an internationally renowned program since its start in 1967
  • Located on the CSU Foothills Campus

Equine Reproductive Lab Fire

  • 75 clients from around the United States impacted
  • Fire happened on July 26, 2011
  • No one was injured including any horses on the premises
  • The ERL is currently being rebuilt
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