In a storage facility in Beverly Hills sit two frozen female embryos, two microscopic organisms at the centre of a now two-year legal battle between the couple that created them in 2013; actress Sofia Vergara and her former fiancé, Nick Loeb.
On Friday, a federal judge in the US state of Louisiana threw out a suit spearheaded by the entrepreneur in which it was argued that the eggs have been “effectively abandoned” by the 45-year-old Modern Family star and deserve the right to be born.
But that’s just the latest step in this bitter and bizarre legal saga.
How did we get here?
It all began in 2015 when Loeb sued Vergara in a Californian court for custody of the fertilised eggs, which the pair created roughly a year before their relationship ended.
Loeb was seeking – and still is – to have the embryos implanted in a surrogate, and to raise them as a solo parent. However, the actress’ lawyer told E News she “is content to leave the embryos frozen indefinitely as she has no desire to have children with her ex”.
In an op-ed on the issue in The New York Times, Loeb argued that keeping the fertilised eggs frozen forever is “tantamount to killing them”.
“A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects,” he wrote. “Shouldn’t a man who is willing to take on all parental responsibilities be similarly entitled to bring his embryos to term even if the woman objects?”
Loeb eventually withdrew his Californian lawsuit in December 2016. He attributed the decision to his refusal to identify two ex girlfriends who had undergone abortions - a step the court deemed necessary to establish his pro-life position. However, Vergara's legal team pegged the withdrawal as a stalling tactic that would allow Loeb to file again at a later date.
That same month, the Louisiana suit was lodged.
Loeb claimed he and Vergara had dated in the south-eastern US state in 2014 while the actress was shooting a movie and even planned a life together there. But it's also worth noting - as the Louisiana federal judge reportedly did - that it's the only state to consider embryos 'juridical persons', which essentially means they have the same legal rights as people.
This had allowed Loeb to take a different tack: this time, the suit was filed against Vergara not by him, but on behalf of the two fertilised eggs.
According to court papers obtained by Page Six, the suit reportedly listed the embryos as plaintiffs named “Emma” and “Isabella”, and claimed that by not being born they were being denied inheritance set aside for them in a trust fund established by Loeb.
But in dismissing the suit on Friday, the judge reportedly found the court had no jurisdiction over the case as the embryos are "citizens" of California and neither Loeb nor Vergara has permanent ties to Louisiana, TMZ reported.
Sofia Vergara and Hollywood stereotyping. (Post continues below).
What happens now?
Well, theoretically Loeb could refile a suit in California.
Although in February this year, Vergara (who is now married to Magic Mike actor Joe Manganiello) lodged her own suit in the state seeking an injunction that would permanently block Loeb from being able to use the embryos without her written consent, as per the agreement they signed at the ART Reproductive Center in Beverly Hills back in 2013.
That case appears to be ongoing.
While Loeb has been vocal throughout the whole process, Vergara has said little; other than to Good Morning America in 2015:
"I don’t want to allow this person to take more advantage of my career and try to promote himself and get press for this... He shouldn’t be creating something so ugly out of nothing.”