Los Angeles – County officials have agreed to pay $3 million to the children of a woman who died after writhing in pain on the floor of a troubled hospital for nearly an hour, an attorney said Thursday.
The payment settles a lawsuit brought by the three grown children of Edith Rodriguez, who died May 9, 2007, after going to Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital with abdominal pain. She was not treated.
Rodriguez's death and other instances of poor care cost the hospital $200 million in federal funding in 2007, and the county-run facility, previously called Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center, was closed to all but outpatient care.
Each plaintiff in the Rodriguez case will receive $1 million, less legal fees, said their attorney, Franklin Casco Jr. Their lawsuit was dismissed Monday.
"(The children) are happy that this case has been resolved, they were just looking for closure," Casco said. "Regardless of the amount of money that was paid, it's never going to bring their mom back."
Rodriguez's boyfriend, Jose Prado, will receive $250,000 in a separate lawsuit, the attorney said.
Rodriguez, 43, had suffered a perforated colon and was yelling out in agony as she waited for treatment. Despite her cries, a nurse dismissed her complaints and a janitor could be seen on security camera footage mopping around her.
Police officers said Rodriguez was making so much noise that she was causing a disturbance and, after running a background check, she was arrested on an outstanding warrant for a probation violation. She died as police were trying to put her in a squad car, Casco said.
According to a report ordered by Los Angeles County to look into its liability in the case, arresting officers said they believed Rodriguez would get better treatment in jail than at the hospital. After she became unresponsive as they wheeled her to a waiting patrol car, officers took her back inside, where she died in the emergency room, the report said.
Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo said county supervisors thought $3 million was fair compensation and decided not to risk a trial because the security video would likely garner sympathy from a jury and potentially result in a higher award.
"There's risks to any litigated case, this one involved a video that was pretty graphic," he said.
Casco said the cause of death was cardiac arrest caused by her perforated bowel. Rodriguez had been to see doctors at the hospital at least six times in the month before her death and had spent 14 hours there a day earlier.