Family of Woman Who Froze to Death in Hospital Morgue to Sue

The family of an 80-year-old woman who froze to death after mistakenly being declared dead has been cleared by a court to move forward with a lawsuit.

Maria de Jesus Arroyo suffered a heart attack and was declared dead at White Memorial in Boyle Heights, according to the LA Times. What happened next is truly awful:

When morticians received her body a few days later, they found her body facedown, with her nose broken and cuts and bruises to her face, injuries so severe they could not be covered up by make-up, according to court papers.

Arroyo's husband and eight children initially sued the hospital alleging the body had been mishandled after her death. But during litigation, a pathologist who reviewed Arroyo's injuries concluded the injuries most likely occurred while she was still alive – that she had been "frozen alive," "eventually woke up" and "damaged her face and turned herself face down as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape her frozen tomb," according court records.

The family's attorney withdrew their first mishandling lawsuit and tried to refile a second one in May alleging Arroyo was declared dead and frozen alive. But a trial judge threw the case out, citing a one-year statute of limitations. That decision has been reversed:

The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday overturned the trial judge and revived the medical malpractice suit, finding that the family could not have known Arroyo may have been prematurely declared deceased and frozen alive until the pathologist gave his expert opinion, in December 2011.

"Plaintiffs had absolutely no reason to suspect that the decedent was alive rather than dead when placed in the Hospital morgue and when the disfiguring injuries occurred," the appellate justices wrote in their opinion.

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