Three years after a 13-year-old California girl was pronounced dead after tonsil surgery, a judge in Alameda County has ruled that she may be alive, legally speaking. In an order released Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Pulido wrote that despite being declared dead by the county coroner's office in 2013, Jahi McMath may not satisfy the "statutory definition of 'dead' under the Uniform Definition of Death Act," the East Bay Times reports. And a jury will make the determination as to whether she does or not, Pulido ruled, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. It's good news for Jahi's family, which is suing UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital for malpractice after the operation in 2013 resulted in cardiac arrest and massive bleeding; she's been on life support since.
The decision could have a big financial impact. California imposes a $250,000 cap on awards for wrongful-death claims regarding children but no cap on wrongful-injury claims; the court could, for instance, rule that Jahi's medical costs need to be covered for the duration of her life. The Chronicle has more on a June court filing in which a UCLA professor said 49 videos taken by Jahi's family over a 2-year period beginning in March 2014 show she is no longer brain dead and is improving, though she has irrevocable brain damage. Pulido heavily cited Dr. Alan Shewmon in his order.