SANTA MARIA, California – The family of a woman who died two years ago is suing Michael Jackson and a California hospital, claiming the gravely ill patient was moved from her two-bed trauma unit to make room for the pop star when he arrived with flu symptoms.
The complaint, claiming abuse of celebrity status,was filed against Jackson and Marian Medical Center last Thursday, the second anniversary of the death of 73-year-old Manuela Gomez Ruiz. It seeks unspecified damages.
The family had previously complained publicly that Ruiz, who had suffered a heart attack and was on life support, was suddenly moved to make way for Jackson, whose Feb. 15, 2005, admission to the hospital caused cancellation of a court session in his child molestation trial. Ruiz suffered a second heart attack and died later that day.
A statement from the medical center said the suit is without merit and is "another frivolous claim to generate publicity." Expressing sympathy for the Ruiz family's loss, the statement added, "Patient care and safety is always our priority" and expressed confidence that Ruiz received exceptional care.
Jackson spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Attorney James McKiernan of San Luis Obispo, who filed the suit, said in his complaint that a circus-like atmosphere at the hospital because of Jackson's arrival caused "emotional and mental lasting effects" on the Ruiz family.
"Manuela Ruiz was dying," the suit said. "Michael Jackson was also dying ... dying not to go to court that day."
The pop star was later acquitted of the child molestation charges.
The suit alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, elder abuse, false imprisonment and conspiracy by Jackson, Marian Medical Center and Catholic Healthcare West, which owns the hospital.