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Premature diagnosis of death involved in lawsuit

Colorado residents who follow medical malpractice in the news may know that there is a predefined period of time within which a suit must be filed. One case shows that the time frame is intricately tied to when an individual is injured or when the patient discovers they were injured.

In 2010, an 80-year-old woman suffered a myocardial infarction and was taken to the hospital. She was pronounced dead, and her body was placed in a freezer in the morgue. Several days later, morticians reported that her body was facing down when they got it, and she had a fractured nose as well as bruises and cuts on her face. The family filed a suit saying the woman's body was not handled appropriately. During the civil trial at the end of 2011, testimony by a pathologist reported that the woman was alive when she was placed in the freezer and froze to death, according to the court transcripts. The pathologist's opinion was that the woman most likely awoke, and the injuries were incurred while trying to escape. The case was withdrawn by the family, and they filed a malpractice case in 2012.

The judge assigned to the case ruled that the family filed the malpractice case beyond the time limit and dismissed it. An appellate court ruled that the family could not have known what happened until they heard the pathologist's testimony. The appellate court remanded the case to a lower court to be heard.

The misdiagnosis of death resulting in the actual death of an individual may be unknown and unexpected. An attorney may offer insight into when a case may be filed and possible exemptions to a definitive time limit.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Malpractice Suit Over Frozen California Woman to Proceed", April 04, 2014

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