The family of a grandmother who allegedly froze to death after being mistakenly declared dead and put into a mortuary freezer has been cleared to sue the California hospital where she was held.
Maria de Jesus Arroyo, 80, was placed in a body bag and put into cold storage after being pronounced dead of a heart attack.
When staff went to prepare her body for her funeral days later they found her nose broken and her face covered in cuts and bruises, allegedly suffered as she tried to escape from the freezer.
A pathologist later concluded that she had been alive when she was put into cold storage, eventually woke up and “damaged her face and turned herself face down as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape her frozen tomb”.
William Manion, the pathologist hired by Arroyo’s family, concluded that she froze to death.
Arroyo’s husband and eight children originally sued the White Memorial Medical Centre in Los Angeles for mishandling her body following her death in July 2010.
After the pathologist’s report in December 2011, they changed their lawsuit to involve the more serious charge of medical malpractice, accusing the hospital of allowing her to die.
A California court initially ruled that the one-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases had expired.
But an appeal court has overturned that ruling.
A lawyer for the hospital denied the allegations.