Millon-Dollar Settlement in Hospital Neglect Case

The children of a woman who died in a county hospital emergency room after being ignored by staffers will receive a $3 million settlement from Los Angeles County, their lawyer said Thursday.

Edith Rodriguez, 43, was captured on security videotape writhing in pain for 45 minutes on the floor of the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center on May 9, 2007, as a hospital janitor mopped around her.
She died of a perforated bowel shortly after being arrested at the hospital on an outstanding warrant instead of being treated.
Attorney Frank Casco Jr. called the settlement a compromise, saying it was a reasonable offer given the state of the economy.
Casco had originally sought $45 million in damages, representing $1 million for each minute Rodriguez did not receive health care.
"No amount of money is ever going to bring their mother back," Casco said. "But in the interest of closure, they settled."
Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo confirmed the amount of the settlement. He declined to speculate on the outcome of the case had it gone to trial.
"There's always a risk to any litigation," Granbo said, adding that the footage of Rodriguez lying on the floor would certainly have been shown. "That would have evoked a lot of sympathy from the jury," he said.
County officials offered the settlement about a six weeks ago, but it wasn't until about two weeks ago that Rodriguez's children decided to accept, he said. With the money paid out, the case was formally dismissed on Monday.
The county Board of Supervisors unanimously signed off on the settlement, according to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who said he had been horrified by the security video.
"The best interests were served by ending this fairly for the Rodriguez family and moving on," he said, adding that "the county is determined never to let anyone die on the floor of our waiting rooms again. Now there's a $3 million exclamation point at the end of that commitment."
Yaroslavsky's colleagues expressed similar sentiments.
"It was a horrible situation. No one deserves to be treated like that, and (I'm) glad we could settle without a protracted trial," Supervisor Don Knabe said.
"There is no calculable figure that can adequately ease the suffering over the loss of their mother," Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.
Rodriguez's death sparked national outrage and contributed to the closure of the hospital's emergency room and inpatient care when a federal regulator determined she had not received a minimum level of care.
"I want her children and family to know that we are working hard every single day to ensure that this never happens again in any of our county medical facilities," said Supervisor Gloria Molina.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the hospital, said "now that justice has been served, we should focus our efforts on opening a new Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital that provides quality health care to the residents of South Los Angeles."
With the case ended, Casco said he intends to write a book about Rodriguez.
"I think there's a story to be told here. She was an American in the American health system," he said.  

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