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Switched at birth: Hospital, Ventura County draw lawsuit over 1960 mix-up

One of the babies switched died by suicide at age 34, after a lifetime of "feeling perpetually alienated and ostracized."

VENTURA, Calif. (CN) — On Aug. 17, 1960, two women gave birth, to Violet Marquez and Elizabeth Vera, 16 minutes apart at Ventura County Medical Center (then known as General Hospital of Ventura County). Sixty-two years later, the event has drawn a lawsuit: The two babies were accidentally switched at the hospital, and Marquez was raised by Ramona Pena, Vera's biological mom. Vera was raised by Martha Medina, Marquez's biological mom.

Elizabeth Vera took her own life in the mid-1990s, at age 34. According to the lawsuit filed by the two families, "she had suffered from many years of alcoholism, anxiety, and depression. While her biological family has a history of mental illness and disability, the Vera family did not."

The families add in the complaint: "Elizabeth never fit in with the family who raised her. She did not resemble them in appearance or behavior, resulting in her feeling perpetually alienated and ostracized."

Neither family ever suspected the mistake until 2021, when Marquez received the results from a DNA test she'd sent to Ancestry.com. The website informed her that she was connected to a family named "Vera." Marquez contacted Elizabeth Vera's sister, Laura, who told Marquez that Elizabeth had been born on the same day as Violet.

Elizabeth's two children, Salvador and Regina Villasenor, then submitted DNA samples to 23andME. The results, according to the lawsuit, "confirmed the strong likelihood" that Vera and Marquez had been switched at birth.

This past March, Marquez, the Villasenors and other assorted family members submitted a claim against Ventura County over the hospital mix-up. That claim was rejected. A spokesperson for the hospital declined to comment. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Gregory Rizio and Lauren Vogt of the firm Rizio Lipinsky in Santa Ana, California, did not respond to a phone call or email requesting an interview.

The families' claims include breach of contract, medical malpractice, fraudulent concealment and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit is not the first to be filed over a nursery ward mix-up. In 2020, two 77-year-old men switched at birth in West Virginia sued the Catholic diocese, claiming a "lifetime of consequences" because of the error. A month later, two women sued a Texas hospital over their switch in 1969. Both cases remain pending.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

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