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Family's 'Frozen Alive' Negligence Suit Clear to Proceed

The hospital insists it did nothing wrong and followed all proper protocols, but a pathologist’s report suggests otherwise. It appears now that a jury will have to decide whether there is any merit to a claim of hospital negligence based on the finding that an 80-year-old woman was apparently frozen alive in the hospital’s morgue.

The circumstances of the case are stunning. While it didn’t happen in Kansas City, the reality is that it could have. That being the case, we think readers will find it enlightening in terms of the scope of issues that may be found to warrant personal injury claims.

According to court documents, the victim was declared dead in July 2010 at a hospital in Los Angeles. She purportedly had died of a heart attack. When the body arrived at the mortician a few days later, workers found the woman’s nose had been broken. She also had suffered cuts and bruises so severe that makeup couldn’t cover them up.

The suit alleging negligence was filed by the woman’s family after a private pathologist declared in December 2011 that the woman most likely had suffered her wounds before death. The court records say the expert’s report also concluded that she had been frozen alive, woke up in the morgue, and died struggling to escape.

When the case eventually came to trial, the judge accepted the hospital’s motion to have it dismissed. Lawyers for the hospital said the suit had been filed more than a year after the family learned of the injuries and that the statute of limitations had expired. But earlier this month, an appeals court overturned that decision, reviving the case.

The higher court decided that the suit couldn’t have been filed prior to the issuance of the pathologist report in December 2011, so it had been started within an appropriate time.

The case is now scheduled to return to Los Angeles Superior court for further action.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Lawsuit: Woman frozen alive in L.A. hospital died trying to escape,” Victoria Kim, April 3, 2014