Author’s note: this article involves a minor at the time of the incident. We normally do not name minors by name unless a parent or guardian authorizes us to. In this case, the incident occurred while the plaintiff was a minor. However, during our interview, the plaintiff, now an adult, authorized the use of her name in our article. Her mom, also present during the interview, also consented to using her daughters’ names.
On July 27, 2018, Daniela Hernandez de la Cruz was taken to El Paso Children’s Hospital under the custody of El Paso Police officers. Daniela, then 16, was taken to the children’s hospital suffering a mental crisis. Daniela had received treatment earlier necessitating the use of electrodes placed on her head to record her brain waves with an EEG (electroencephalogram). Daniela was disturbed by the EEG probes and ran away from her home. Her mother called the police department for help in locating her daughter. 
Daniela was located some two hours later by El Paso Police Department officers. 
Her mom was contacted to meet her daughter at El Paso Children’s Hospital. The mom, Carmen de la Cruz, was unable to find someone to care for her other daughter, Rocio, a twin of Daniela and thus took her younger child and Rocio to the children’s hospital to meet her daughter, Daniela, there. 
Daniela had been taken to El Paso Children’s Hospital “in the custody of the El Paso Police Department.” 
Arriving at the El Paso Children’s Hospital’s emergency room, Rocio “upon seeing her sister in handcuffs,” became upset and wanted to leave the hospital.  Rocio started “yelling that she wanted to leave” and “pulled on her mom’s purse” to get the car keys. 
The mother, Carmen, asked El Paso Children’s Hospital staff if she could leave, she was told that if she left, child protective services would be called. 
As Rocio became more agitated, the mother, Carmen, asked if she could speak to a supervisor. As Carmen was trying to speak to the supervisor, who Carmen claims is named “Maria,” she heard a commotion and saw at least one security guard, at least one El Paso Police Department officer and one male nurse take her daughter, Rocio, to the ground and restrain her.  
The daughter, Rocio, suffered a broken elbow as a result. 
Rocio, was sixteen at the time and weighed approximately 120 pounds. She was about 5 feet in height at the time. The male nurse involved in the altercation is taller than Daniela, “a giant,” says the mother. 
Two lawsuits have been filed as the result of the incident, one civil battery and assault lawsuit and another a malpractice lawsuit. 
No Charges Filed
According to the mother, there have been no criminal charges filed against Rocio because of the incident.  In a Spanish interview, Daniela told the El Paso Politics that she is aware that a report exists alleging that Rocio “kicked the nurse”. 
Rocio denies the allegation. 
In response to the lawsuit, the El Paso Children’s Hospital filed a general denial to the allegations made. Among the typical denials found in lawsuits of this type, the El Paso Children’s Hospital added,
“Alternatively, based on the current information available, Defendant alleges that the incident resulting in injuries and/or damages alleged by Plaintiff was caused by the negligent acts and/or omissions of her mother, Carmen De La Cruz who failed to adequately supervise her children and failed to take corrective action necessary to avoid the incident in question.” 
Standard of Care For Hospital Altercations
At the request of the attorney for Rocio de la Cruz, Paul Rosales, a registered nurse has been offered as an “expert witness” for the trial. Rosales worked for the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) for eight years where he cared for patients “with a history of violence secondary to psychiatric diagnosis. Rosales adds that his experience includes UMC’s “policies and procedures regarding the use of restraints.” 
Rosales prepared a report in late December opining on the standard of care and alleged “misuse of restraints.” 
According to Rosales’ report, when “Rocio became more agitated,” three individuals knocked Rocio to the floor and while attempting to restrain her, “her elbow was fractured.”  The three individuals who took Rocio to the floor were identified as Armando Lopez, Juan Zapata and El Paso Police Officer J.T. O’Conner. Zapata is a patient care technician, according to the report and Lopez was identified as working in “guest services”. 
Rosales’ writes in his report that El Paso Children’s Hospital failed to adhere to the standards of care during the incident by resorting to threatening the mother with calling child protective services, instead of providing acceptable options for the mother to deal with Rocio becoming agitated. 
Rosales’ also noted that the staff at El Paso Children’s Hospital was aware that the twins, Daniela and Rocio suffered from a medical history of Autism and Mood Disorder and should be separated to help calm them down. According to Rosales, the hospital staff should have used “non-violent crisis intervention techniques” to de-escalate the altercation. 
Rosales’ report states that in a witness statement, Juan Zapata acknowledges holding the “girl’s forearms so that the girl wouldn’t hurt mom or get keys.” According to Rosales, the standard level of care requires that an individual trained in security is the one to deal with an evolving altercation. Rosales writes that witnesses place a Hospital Guest Services employee at the scene of the altercation. Guest services individuals are “considered security guards and are trained in utilizing restraints” and the “appropriate action to take” in response to an altercation. 
According to the Rosales’ report, Zapata should have allowed guest services to intervene, instead of attempting to restrain Rocio himself. 
Paul Rosales concludes his report with, “El Paso Children’s Hospital staff member(s) fell below the standard of care which resulted in the injury sustained by Rocio”. 
El Paso Children’s Hospital Responds
El Paso Politics reached out to the children’s hospital for comment yesterday.
In response to our questions about the protocols in place to deal with disturbances at the hospital and whether the individuals involved in the altercation were children’s employees or UMC employees, children’s spokesperson provided the following statement:
“El Paso Children’s Hospital (EPCH) is committed to providing high quality outcomes for the most vulnerable patients in El Paso and the surrounding community. Our number one goal is to provide safe, quality care to all our patients. EPCH cannot comment on any legal matter.”
Video Of Rocio
Carmen de la Cruz provided El Paso Politics a copy of video of Rocio she took shortly after the incident. The two-minute video shows Rocio in pain with her right-arm bandaged.
Please note that the video may be difficult for some viewers to watch.
In the video, Rocio complains in Spanish that she is in pain and that “she did nothing” to merit what happened to her.
This ongoing lawsuit is one of several against the El Paso Children’s Hospital currently being litigated. Readers can read our coverage about the pediatric hospital using this link.
El Paso Politics will continue to monitor this case and report as more information becomes available.
- Rocio Hernandez de la Cruz v. El Paso Children’s Hospital Corporation, Cause No: 2020DCV2366, (171st District Court, El Paso, Texas. 2020).
- Interviewee Hernandez de la Cruz, Carmen. (Plaintiff’s mother), in telephone discussion with author, January 25, 2021. Interviewed in Spanish.
- Interviewee Hernandez de la Cruz, Rocio. (Plaintiff), in telephone discussion with author, January 25, 2021. Interviewed in Spanish.
- Interviewee Vielledent, Federico. (Plaintiff’s attorney), in telephone discussion with author, January 25, 2021.
- Rocio Hernandez de la Cruz v. El Paso Children’s Hospital Corporation, Cause No: 2020DCV2366, “Original Answer of Defendant El Paso Children’s Hospital Corporation,” (171st District Court, El Paso, Texas. September 11, 2020).
- Rocio Hernandez de la Cruz v. El Paso Children’s Hospital Corporation, Cause No: 2020DCV2366, “Designation of Experts and Chapter 74 Export Report, Exhibit A” (171st District Court, El Paso, Texas. January 7, 2021).