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Woman frozen alive according to revived medical malpractice suit

Family members in another state find themselves able to proceed with a medical malpractice suit thanks to an Appeals Court ruling. In question is the possible hospital negligence that resulted in the death of an 80-year-old woman. Complex legal questions surrounded the matter – the same type of procedural issues that could be found in New Jersey courts – but the case will now go forward as this husband and eight children seek compensation and accountability for their loss.

This unusual story began with the woman's heart attack in July 2010. Reportedly, the hospital declared her dead and placed her in the morgue freezer. When it was time for the undertaker to remove the body to the funeral home, she was found face down with facial bruises and cuts and a broken nose. As a result of these findings, the family filed a lawsuit claiming the body was mishandled by the hospital morgue.

In 2011, the suit was withdrawn by the husband and children because the testifying pathologist gave his opinion that the victim had been frozen alive. He alleged she woke up and struggled to escape, causing the injuries and, ultimately, her demise. Based on this revelation, the family filed a replacement lawsuit in May 2012, charging medical malpractice. The statute of limitations of one year applies to this cause of action. The court dismissed the lawsuit.

An appeal of this ruling followed, and it was successful. Because the plaintiffs didn't have any reason to believe a fatal medical error took place until the expert testimony at trial raised that question, the appellate court found in their favor. The case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. According to reports, the hospital hasn't offered any comment on the allegation that the elderly woman was declared dead by mistake.

The standard of care provided to the heart attack victim was allegedly insufficient to prevent harm. The careful, knowledgeable approach to legal options will help this family as they seek accountability from the hospital through a claim for compensation.

Source: The Washington Post, "Court says suit over frozen woman can proceed" No author given, Apr. 02, 2014

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Gary D. Ginsberg is a Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who has been recognized as an expert in litigating cases in the courts of New Jersey.

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