Court Rebuffs Suit by Parents Told Their Daughter Was Dead

Maria and Jose Guerra believed bad news for horrible 6 days
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2015 2:46 PM CDT
Court Rebuffs Suit by Parents Told Their Daughter Was Dead
April "Abby" Guerra speaks to reporters in Phoenix Friday, May 8, 2015.   (Matthew Casey/Arizona Republic via AP)

(Newser) – So law enforcement officers mistakenly informed Maria and Jose Guerra that their daughter was dead—and the grieving parents believed that misinformation for a grueling six days. Is that reason to sue? The Arizona couple did sue the Department of Public Safety for negligence, only to have the state's high court rebuff their effort yesterday, Tucson.com reports. "Imposing such a duty, at a minimum, would cause officers to delay in making next-of-kin notifications," wrote Justice John Pelander for the majority in the 3-2 decision. "At worst, it may deter officers from sharing whatever information they have." But the Guerras argued that officers had a duty to ensure that victims were properly identified before informing the family.

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"For six days, they went through the wringer," says their lawyer, the AP reports. "But why did they have to go through such emotional turmoil? It was needless." The family's nightmare began in 2010 when officers said their daughter April, then 19, died in a car crash returning from a trip to Disneyland. April strongly resembled her friend Marlena, who died in the accident; April's face was badly bruised. Only later did the medical examiner untangle the girls' identities using dental records. April's severe injuries left her paraplegic, but she gets around in a wheelchair and is studying to become a pharmacist. The Guerras were thrilled she survived, but don't like the court's decision: "Today’s decision immunizes police officers," the couple says in a statement. "In other words, victims' families cannot trust anything police officers tell them." (Read more lawsuit stories.)

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