A California man is suing the doctor who declared his wife dead, claiming she was alive in the morgue and struggling to escape as she froze to death.
Guadalupe Arroyo initially thought the lifeless body of his wife, Maria, had been banged up by staff at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. Morticians found the body face-down in the metal morgue compartment with bruises and cuts so severe that no amount of makeup could mask them, according to court documents.
The 80-year-old mother of eight, who was declared dead from cardiac arrest, also had a broken nose.
Arroyo and his children sued the hospital for negligence, claiming staff "mishandled" his wife's remains. But a medical expert called to testify in the case had a different theory, according to court documents: Maria Arroyo had been "prematurely declared dead" and "frozen alive" in the hospital's freezer. She "eventually woke up" due to the extreme cold and "damaged her face and turned herself face down as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape her frozen tomb," the expert said
Now, Arroyo is suing Dr. John Plosay and White Memorial Medical Center medical for negligence and the wrongful death of his wife in July 2010. The hospital has moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in May 2012, on the grounds that the one-year statute of limitations had expired. But an appeals court ruled Wednesday that the suit could move forward because the medical expert's "frozen alive" theory didn't emerge until December 2011.
A spokeswoman for White Memorial Medical Center said it was hospital policy "not to comment on pending litigation or to provide details about any of our patients out of respect for their privacy and that of their families."
"However, we wish to note that we continue to disagree with the allegations being made," spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez told ABCNews.com in a statement. "We followed all proper protocals [sic] in this matter and are confident that once the facts of the case are reviewed we will prevail in court."
Ryan Deane, an attorney representing Plosay, echoed the hospital's statement that his client had followed protocol.
"We do not believe that the plaintiffs can competently and credibly explain away the medical realities of this unfortunate case, including that [Maria Arroyo] suffered a cardiac event and received resuscitative measures that were ultimately unsuccessful, [she] was pronounced dead after both clinical evidence and diagnostic evidence confirmed she had in fact died and [she] laid motionless for several hours in the hospital (with family present for part of that time) without exhibiting any signs of life before being transported to the morgue," Deane said in a statement to ABCNews.com. "We are confident that the evidence will establish that the treating doctor at all times acted appropriately and in keeping with the standard of care for an emergency room physician."
Earlier this year, a Mississippi man woke up in a body bag as funeral home workers prepared to embalm him. The man died two weeks later.