Suit can’t continue against hospital, Michael Jackson

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By Samantha Yale/Lompoc Record Staff Writer

August 22, 2007 – A judge in Santa Maria ruled Tuesday that a lawsuit filed against pop star Michael Jackson and Marian Medical Center cannot continue in court as filed.

The suit was filed by the family of a Santa Maria woman who died at the hospital shortly after she was moved to another room to make space for the entertainer to be examined.

Judge Rodney Melville of Santa Barbara County Superior Court, who was also the judge in Jackson’s child-molestation case two and a half years ago, granted demurrers filed by attorneys for Jackson and Marian Medical Center. He also gave the attorney for the plaintiffs, San Luis Obispo-based James McKiernan, 30 days in which to file a re-drafted complaint.

McKiernan immediately said he would re-file the necessary documents.

A demurrer is a pleading that attacks the legal sufficiency of an opponent’s pleadings.

The complaint, filed in February, alleges abuse of celebrity status and blames Marian Medical Center and Jackson for the “outrageous, circus-like atmosphere they orchestrated during the last hours of Manuela Ruiz’s life and its obvious emotional and mental lasting effects upon the plaintiffs.”

The plaintiffs, mostly children of Manuela Gomez Ruiz, are seeking undetermined damages. They allege intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, elder abuse, false imprisonment and conspiracy on the part of Jackson, Marian Medical Center and Catholic Healthcare West, which owns the hospital.

During his trial, which ultimately resulted in his acquittal on child-molestation charges, Jackson was taken to Marian Feb. 15, 2005, complaining of flu-like symptoms.

Ruiz, a 73-year-old woman who was on life-support after a massive heart attack, was moved from a two-bed trauma room so that Jackson could privately occupy the room, according to the plaintiffs’ complaint.

Ruiz was moved to an exam room, while kept alive by hand-pumped oxygen, until she could be reconnected to life-support machines. She had another heart attack, but milling crowds delayed her arrival at the critical-care unit, according to the complaint. She died later that evening.

During the hearing Tuesday, the attorney for the hospital, Santa Barbara-based Hugh Spackman, argued that facts alleged in the case were filed under an ill-fitting cause of action.

McKiernan, attorney for the plaintiffs, defended the allegations in the complaint as being based on an “outrageous set of facts,” and he described the events surrounding Jackson’s hospital stay as “highly unusual.”

Outside court after Melville’s granting of the demurrers, McKiernan said the judge didn’t find that Jackson or the hospital had a duty to Ruiz’s relatives.

McKiernan said he will file a re-drafted complaint in the case.

“We’re always confident in our work,” he said.

Spackman and the attorney representing Jackson in the case, Timothy Gorry of Los Angeles, declined to comment on the judge’s ruling.



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