Seton Medical Center in Daly City mistakenly shipped a couple’s sheet-wrapped stillborn daughter with other dirty laundry to an outside vendor where the body was discovered on a conveyor belt making its way to a commercial washing machine, according to a lawsuit filed by the parents
The heartbreak of the couple, Julio and Rina N. Arriaza, after the Oct. 29, 2012, death of their daughter Estefani after 36 weeks of pregnancy was “made horrific beyond description” by what happened to her body, according to the suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court against the hospital and Seton Medical Center Foundation.
The baby’s body was not only lost but mishandled, leaving her “filthy, swollen and mutilated” upon her return, the lawsuit states.
“Imagine, the worst thing in the world happens to you by losing a child and then it gets worse,” said attorney Rafael Crespo Jr.
Seton Medical Center declined to comment citing the pending litigation but the suit claims Director James Schuessler apologized, accepted responsibility and gave them a $2,500 check to cover burial expenses. The suit also claims that Schuessler assured the couple their daughter’s body had not been mishandled and the funeral could proceed as scheduled.
“I think they appreciate he did come to them but it never should have come to that,” Crespo said.
The couple’s tragedy began Oct. 28, 2012, when Rina Ariazza felt little movement by the baby and, in an appointment the next day, a doctor confirmed the absence of a heartbeat. Estefani Belen Arriaza was stillborn that night. After the couple spent a half hour with their baby, a female nurse took her from the operating room and the couple went to a hospital room where the following day they made burial arrangements at Cypress Lawn and discharged.
On Nov. 1, 2012, Schuessler, a nun and a social worker went to Rina Arriaza’s home to explain that the hospital had lost Estefani’s body when housekeeping took the wrapped body away with other linen and placed it in the laundry. The body was then shipped with the laundry to a vendor in Santa Cruz where workers discovered it on the conveyor belt.
During the conversation, Schuessler assured the couple the hospital would take action to prevent similar future errors and said that the baby’s body was still in acceptable shape for the scheduled funeral.
However, according to the suit, during the Nov. 2, 2012, funeral service Julio Arriaza touched his daughter one last time before the casket was closed and was shocked when her sleeve moved revealing transparent cellophane wrapped around her arm. The family, given no explanation for the wrap, asked to see the full body and found it appearing “bloated, swollen and mutilated, unlike the description given.” Three days later, the social worker told the couple Schuessler issued the check. The couple did not accept the money, Crespo said.
The couple are seeking damages for emotional distress and negligence along with legal costs.
They are still devastated, Crespo said.
A case management conference is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2014.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102