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Home > Topics > Cardiac Care

Lawsuit: Woman frozen alive in L.A. hospital died trying to escape

The 80-year-old woman was pronounced dead from a heart attack; morticians later found her body face down with bruises and determined she woke up and injured herself trying to free herself from the body bag

By Victoria Kim
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The family of an 80-year-old woman is suing a Boyle Heights hospital after a pathologist determined that she was "frozen alive," "eventually woke up" and injured herself as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape, according to court records.

Maria de Jesus Arroyo, 80, was pronounced dead in July 2010 at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights after suffering a heart attack. 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 makeup, according to court papers.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday overturned a trial judge's earlier decision to throw out the family's lawsuit alleging the hospital had mistakenly declared her dead and frozen her while she was still living, reviving the legal claim.

The trial judge had sided with the hospital’s attorneys that the suit was filed too late, beyond the one-year statute of limitations after the family discovered Arroyo’s injuries.

But in reviving the lawsuit, the district court found 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.

In that opinion, the pathologist concluded that the injuries Arroyo suffered 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 to court records.

The hospital has not addressed the allegation that Arroyo was prematurely declared dead, according to court records.

The case now returns to Los Angeles County Superior Court for further proceedings.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
A representative for White Memorial could not immediately be reached for comment.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Elizabeth Miller Elizabeth Miller Saturday, April 05, 2014 5:03:55 AM Is it a common practice to freeze the deceased before moving them to a funeral home? I've not heard of this before.
Meg McConnell Meg McConnell Saturday, April 05, 2014 10:23:34 AM In ca it takes forever to get bodies from the coroner to the funeral home (took them a week with my family) bodies start to decay and smell if you don't freeze them (another thing we learned the hard way thanks to a funeral home not telling is they didn't have a freezer)
John Muravez John Muravez Saturday, April 05, 2014 11:16:42 AM Meg McConnell your body is decaying the sec you die. Most coroners have the freezers in CA and since I cleaned a funeral home for two years that only bad ones came in normally were floaters/fire vic's . Sometimes thing don't go right but just be thank full to the people who try to make it better.
Meg McConnell Meg McConnell Saturday, April 05, 2014 11:39:08 AM Haha oh no the funeral home was in MN he just died in CA (which added yet another week to the process. And believe me I know a few things about decaying bodies - been on a couple of those fire calls ;). But yeah the point I was trying to make is that yes, they do freeze them ASAP
Danny Perry Danny Perry Saturday, April 05, 2014 11:40:51 AM white memorial hospital was always sketchy when i was running calls there :/ i have to say that i'm not surprised. how terrible.

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