(CN) – The family of a stillborn baby boy sued the hospital where he was delivered for accidentally throwing the body into the dirty laundry instead of cremating it as promised.
On April 3, 2013, Esmeralda Hernandez gave birth to a stillborn baby boy, born premature at 22 weeks at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court.
“Regions promised to cremate Baby Jose in a respectful and dignified manner,” the complaint states. “Instead, Regions threw Baby Jose’s body out with Regions’ dirty laundry.”
The body, still in a diaper and hospital identification bracelet, was reportedly found 13 days later by a worker in a laundry facility that contracted with Regions.
“Laundry workers gawked at Baby Jose, took photos of him, and sent pictures of him into cyberspace,” according to the family, represented by Chris Messerly with Robins Kaplan in Minneapolis.
The hospital apologized for its mistake in 2013, claiming that the body had been wrapped in linen in the morgue and mistaken for laundry.
When contacted for comment Friday, the hospital again apologized.
“We want to say again that we are truly sorry for our mistake,” Regions spokesperson Ashley Burt said. “We immediately reached out to the family in 2013 to apologize and to try to help ease their loss. We have continued to work with their lawyer – always open to a reasonable resolution.”
The hospital’s statement conflicts somewhat with the family’s allegation that Regions initially attempted to cover up what happened, before the story hit national news outlets.
“Regions knew that the baby was Baby Jose, but decided not to tell Baby Jose’s family what they had done to him,” the lawsuit states.
The family also claims that what happened to Jose was not the first instance of Regions’ grievous treatment of a stillborn baby.
According to a police report cited in the complaint, the remains of another stillborn baby, “Baby Chang,” were missing but have never been found.
But hospital spokesperson Burt said Regions “took immediate steps to ensure this would not happen again. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reviewed and approved our updated processes in 2014. We continue to review these processes on an ongoing basis.”
Hernandez and her family seek punitive damages for their claim of tortious interference with a dead body.
A similar lawsuit was filed in March against a Miami hospital accused of throwing out a couple’s stillborn daughter while they were making arrangements for a funeral.