LOS ANGELES (AP) - County officials have agreed to pay $3 million to the children of a woman who suffered an agonizing death after writhing untreated on the floor of a public 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 the troubled Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital for treatment of abdominal pain.
Rodriguez's death and other instances of poor care cost the hospital $200 million in federal funding in 2007, and it was closed to all but outpatient care - a blow to low-income residents of south Los Angeles County.
That followed years of failed efforts that so frustrated county supervisors they at one point ordered the head of county health services to move his office into the medical center to solve the crisis.
Each plaintiff in the Rodriguez case will receive $1 million, less legal fees, their attorney Franklin Casco Jr. said. The lawsuit was dismissed Monday after payment of the settlement.
Rodriguez, 43, had suffered a perforated colon and was yelling out in agony as she waited to be treated. Despite her cries of distress, a nurse dismissed her complaints and a janitor could be seen on security camera footage mopping around her.
Police officers said she was making so much noise that she was causing a disturbance and, after running a background check, she was arrested on an outstanding probation violation warrant. She died as police were trying to put her into the back of a squad car, Casco said.
According to a report ordered by the 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.
"(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."
Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo said county supervisors thought $3 million was a fair amount of 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.
In a separate lawsuit, Rodriguez's boyfriend Jose Prado will receive $250,000, Casco said.
The hospital was called Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center prior to 2007.
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