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Family seeks $45 million in King-Harbor death

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The children of Edith Isabel Rodriguez, the woman who died earlier this year after writhing in pain on the waiting room floor of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, filed a $45-million lawsuit against Los Angeles County on Monday, alleging negligence, medical malpractice and wrongful death.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses the county, the hospital, county police and the hospital's nurses of "catastrophic failure" in caring for Rodriguez. Her treatment "fell below the standard of care in the community," the suit alleges.

Rodriguez, 43, died in May after visiting the Willowbrook hospital because of abdominal pain. After receiving pain medication, Rodriguez lingered at the hospital, eventually collapsing on the floor as hospital employees ignored her. County police then discovered that Rodriguez had an outstanding warrant and took her into custody.

She died as law enforcement officers tried to load her from a wheelchair into a patrol car.

The $45 million in damages represents $1 million for each "agonizing minute . . . she suffered and was deprived of health care," according to the complaint.

"She was a human being, and they treated her like an animal," said Franklin Casco Jr., an Irvine attorney who is representing Rodriguez's three adult children, Edmundo, Christina and Kimberly Rodriguez, all of Bakersfield. "She could have been saved," he said.

"They just disregarded her," Casco said. "They did absolutely nothing."

Rodriguez died of a perforated bowel, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

County health officials cannot comment on litigation, a spokesman said.

According to the lawsuit, "hospital personnel left Mrs. Rodriguez untreated, vomiting while writhing in pain on the floor of the medical facility's ER waiting room for approximately 45 minutes, even as a janitor cleaned around her pain-riddled body."

Casco said county officials have rejected more than a dozen subpoenas that requested police reports and other evidence, including the release of a security video that shows Rodriguez's final moments.

County counsel has "appropriately responded" to the requests, said Chief Deputy County Counsel Donovan Main, who declined to elaborate.

King-Harbor has since closed, being downsized into an urgent care center after failing to meet federal standards for patient care.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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