The family of a man whose body was in the custody of the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office for five months filed a legal claim today alleging that the M.E.’s office failed to promptly identify him, leaving his family to believe he remained missing.

The family of 19-year-old Ryan Lim alleges that his mother, Renee Lim, contacted the office last December to see if her missing son had died.

Though she was told no one in their database matched her son’s description, Lim’s body had already been in the M.E.’s custody for nearly a month at that point, according to the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Though she continued searching for her son, it wasn’t until April of this year that Lim was identified. By that time, his body “had been left to deteriorate to a `distressing’ condition,” according to the claim.

“When asked, all the Medical Examiner’s office could say was that they did not know why Ryan had been neglected and overlooked for so long and admitted that `this should not have happened,”’ the claim states.

Representatives from the county did not immediately respond to comment on the claim, which seeks $5 million in damages, representing $1 million for each month Lim remained unidentified. The claim also requests that the county audit the Medical Examiner’s office.

“This egregious failure of the San Diego County Medical Examiner to identify Ryan’s body for five months caused his family and particularly his mother — who never stopped searching for Ryan — unimaginable anxiety, fear, and desperate longing,” said attorney Marc Greenberg, who represents Lim’s family.

“Ms. Lim’s pain was exponentially multiplied by her ultimate realization that, during the entire time that she was searching for Ryan, his body lay alone and disregarded by the Medical Examiner, reducing daily to a distressing condition that robbed her not only of the chance to see her son’s face one last time, but also of the peace of laying him to his final rest in a timely manner after his death,” Greenberg continued. “No parent should ever have to endure such pain — pain that the Medical Examiner’s statutory duty was expressly designed to prevent.”

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