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Woman prematurely declared dead dies while trying to escape morgue freezer

Facebook/White Memorial

The family of a deceased woman is suing a Los Angeles hospital, claiming that the 80-year-old grandmother was declared dead prematurely, woke up inside the morgue freezer, and injured herself while unsuccessfully trying to escape from her body bag.

Maria de Jesus Arroyo was pronounced dead from a heart attack in July 2010. When morticians received her body from White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights, she was face down, with a broken nose and cuts and bruises on her face. Her family, afraid that her body had been abused by staff, contacted an attorney and sued the hospital for mishandling the body.

The family hired a pathologist, and according to court documents, he concluded in December 2011 that Arroyo 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."

The family then tried to sue the hospital for mistakenly declaring Arroyo dead and for freezing her while alive, but a trial judge found that the suit had been filed beyond the one-year statute of limitations. On Wednesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, deciding that the family had no way of knowing what happened to Arroyo until the pathologist filed the report. The case will now return to Los Angeles County Superior Court.