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Court gives family permission to sue hospital

A court has declared that the family of a woman who apparently froze to death in a morgue can go ahead with their lawsuit against the hospital. Previously, a different court had ruled that the family had filed the lawsuit too late. North Carolina residents may have heard about the medical malpractice case, in which the family is claiming that the California woman was prematurely declared dead by the hospital staff and put into the morgue while she was still alive.

Originally, the woman's husband and children filed a suit against the hospital alleging they had handled her body inappropriately. In July of 2010, staff at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles declared the woman, age 80, dead after she had a heart attack. Several days after being taken to the morgue, morticians who examined the body found that she had facial injuries and was face down in the body bag.

The appeals court stated that the family didn't have information to file a malpractice suit against the hospital before a pathologist's report shed new light on the case. After the first lawsuit had been filed, a pathologist determined that the woman had been declared dead incorrectly and had actually frozen to death in the morgue. Upon learning this information, the family withdrew their first lawsuit and filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital instead.

In this case, the family is filing a medical malpractice suit after the woman's death, but living patients who have suffered harm as the result of a physician's negligence may also file a lawsuit. In medical malpractice cases, the failure to act, or omission of proper treatment, may be considered negligence. If a patient or their family files a medical malpractice suit, they will need to demonstrate that the physician's negligence had a detrimental impact on the patient.

Source: ABC News, "Court Says Suit Over Frozen Woman Can Proceed", April 03, 2014

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