Jim Porter: Mother of eight buried alive
On July 20, 2010, Maria de Jesus Arroyo, mother of eight, died at White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles after being transported there by ambulance.
This case is so bizarre — National Enquirer material — I had to write about it. You need to know.
Arroyo had been treated for cardiac arrest and hypertension by Dr. John Plosay. Shortly after arrival at White Memorial, she was pronounced dead by hospital staff.
When workers for the mortuary came to pick up the body, they found it lying face down in the hospital morgue. Not how she had been left.
Maria Arroyo’s nose was broken and her face had suffered lacerations and contusions — injuries that had not been present when she arrived at the hospital or when the body was viewed by relatives after the declaration of death.
You know this story is not ending well. It’s creepy.
Maria’s family sued Dr. Plosay and White Memorial Hospital for disfiguring her body. They claimed the defendants mishandled her remains post-mortem in transferring the body to the hospital’s morgue resulting in disfigurement to her face.
That was lawsuit number one.
Later, when an expert reviewed all of the records, he opined that Maria Arroyo “had been prematurely declared dead by Dr. Plosay and the hospital staff, frozen alive in the hospital’s freezer, eventually woke up due to extreme cold, and damaged her face and turned herself face down as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape her frozen tomb.”
That report guaranteed a second lawsuit.
SUED TOO LATE
Dr. Plosay and White Memorial defended the lawsuits claiming they were filed too late, after the one-year statute of limitations had run.
The family argued they did not know their mom had been buried alive, and when they learned they sued within one year, so the “buried alive” lawsuit was timely.
Let me note, if the disfigurement suit was good, the “you froze my mom to death in your morgue compartment” suit was better.
Ninety-nine percent of this court Opinion discusses boring statutes of limitations — deadlines to sue — and whether the family sued too late and was out of court notwithstanding their understandable anguish.
NICE TRY WHITE MEMORIAL
The hospital argued they sued too late because when the family viewed their mother, they should have suspected from her disfigurement that she was alive when placed in the morgue compartment, and had frozen to death there.
Good luck with that defense White Memorial.
The Court of Appeal ultimately determined “plaintiffs had absolutely no reason to suspect that the decedent (their mother) was alive rather than dead when placed in the hospital morgue and when the disfiguring injuries occurred, and thus had no reason to suspect or investigate potential wrong doing by the hospital or Dr. Plosay in prematurely declaring the decedent dead.”
The family’s lawsuit was kept alive, so to speak — they may take their case to a jury.
I have a strong hunch this case will settle favorably for Maria Arroyo’s family.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.