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Families ask for $150,000,000 default judgement in lawsuit against Nueces County ME's Office

They claim the county failed to respond to the lawsuit within their 30-day deadline.
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Posted at 7:01 PM, Mar 02, 2023

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Attorneys for the dozen families suing the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office have asked the county to pay $150,000,000 in damages to them.

They claimed the county failed to respond to the lawsuit within the 30-day deadline.

The suit, filed first in October of 2022 against former chief medical examiner Adel Shaker, former deputy chief M.E. Sandra Lyden and the county, alleges the M.E.’s office negligently handled bodies, mutilated some, and death certificates were falsified.

In January 2022, Lyden was fired after she ruled a 27-year-old woman died of a fractured neck but an second independent autopsy ruled she died of natural causes.

Lyden was found to not have a Texas medical license and was later arrested and charged with 17 violations of the Texas Occupations Code. Shaker was also arrested and retired in February of last year.

Lyden performed 30 autopsies during her time as deputy me, including that of 3-month-old Olivia Garza.

“Nothing’s ever going to bring her back,” Jasmine Garza said. “I just want them to know that, that’s not okay.”

Instead of celebrating the 2022 New Year, Garza mourned the loss of her new baby girl.

Just a few days before, on December 28, she gave three month old Olivia her nightly feeding.

“I remember after that laying her down to sleep and that was the last time I saw my baby girl,” Garza said.

She said she woke up about midnight alarmed that Olivia hadn’t woken her up for another feeding. She said her baby was unresponsive.

“She wasn’t breathing so I woke up my husband and he called 911,” Garza said.

Nine months after Olivia died, her parents received her official cause of death through a second autopsy. It was sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

She said a second autopsy had to be done because Texas Rangers told Garza the woman who performed the first, former Nueces County Deputy Chief ME Sandra Lyden, didn’t have the proper license to perform autopsies in Texas. So, it was invalid.

“Was there enough that the second opinion was able to be used because my daughter was buried? Garza said. “There was no exhuming her to do a full second one.”

Garza is one of more than a dozen families suing Lyden, Chief ME at the time Adel Shaker and the county.

“I wouldn’t really let anybody like that hold my daughter in general unless she was close to family,” Garza said. “And to know that somebody who shouldn’t have been around her or done anything to her medically, like. They did that.”

Garza said the lawsuit is not about the money.

“Nothing’s ever going to bring her back,” she said. “I just want them to know It’s not okay.”

She said it’s about taking responsibility.

“What they did was not right and we just don’t want to feel forgotten,” Garza said.

The Attorney’s office said the county responded the day after their request for a default judgement and said the wrong person was served.