Suit Settled After Coroner Allegedly Gave Body to Wrong Family

Hand And Gavel.

Photo: Universal Images Group Editorial

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A lawsuit filed by relatives of a 49-year-old man found dead on a Boyle Heights sidewalk in 2019 alleging negligence by Los Angeles County and the coroner after the decedent's body was mistakenly given to members of another family was settled, the plaintiffs' attorney said today.

Lawyer Michael Carrillo represents the 11 plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed in February 2020. The plaintiffs were the siblings, half-siblings and daughter of Armando Luna Panuco and they alleged a cover-up occurred after the error was realized.

Carrillo filed court papers on July 23 with Judge Steven J. Kleifield asking that the case be dismissed in the wake of the settlement. No terms were divulged.

In their court papers, lawyers for the county and the coroner argued the suit's allegations were not entirely supported by the evidence.

“The allegation that the county failed to implement proper policies and this failure was ratified by the county and executives is threadbare,'' the defense lawyers stated in their court papers.

Panuco's body was discovered Feb. 3, 2019, by Los Angeles police on a sidewalk near a restaurant on Indiana Street, the suit stated.

Neighbors were unable to identify the man to police, and his body was presented to the coroner, who turned it over to the wrong family, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs filed a missing-person report last summer and were “shocked and saddened'' when the coroner called on July 4 and told them “that the body of their loved one was released to a completely unknown family that had no association whatsoever with the plaintiff's family'' and that Panuco was buried in Mexico, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs alleged the coroner used improper identification procedures when presented the body.

“When the misidentification was realized, the county of Los Angeles orchestrated a cover-up in an attempt to conceal the gross negligence and violation of substantive due process that occurred,'' the suit alleged.

The plaintiffs were deprived of a proper viewing, funeral and burial of Panuco, the suit stated.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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