Family Can Sue: Hospital Froze Grandma Alive

Appeals court rules family's suit tied to 2010 incident can move forward

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 3, 2014 9:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – A judge has ruled a lawsuit tied to a bizarre 2010 death can move forward. That year, heart-attack victim Maria de Jesus Arroyo, 80, was declared dead at White Memorial Medical Center and placed in the hospital's freezer. But when her body was turned over to morticians days later, she was found face down in a body bag, her nose broken, with cuts and bruises on her face, the Los Angeles Times reports. Arroyo's family sued the LA hospital, alleging the body was improperly cared for. But as that case played out, a pathologist in December 2011 described something much worse in court: Arroyo had likely been "frozen alive," and "damaged her face and turned herself face down as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape her frozen tomb."

CBS Los Angeles reports that a new cause of death was determined: asphyxiation and hypothermia. And so Arroyo's family withdrew its first case and filed a second one in May 2012; it was thrown out by a judge who cited a one-year statute of limitations. That decision was reversed yesterday, however, when an appeals court found the family had "absolutely no reason" to suspect Arroyo could have suffered a premature death until the pathologist gave his opinion. "This is one of the most egregious cases you’ll ever see," says the family's attorney. "This case keeps me awake at night." It will now play out in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

  (Shutterstock)
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