SAN DIEGO — A San Diego woman led a protest at Paradise Valley Hospital nearly one year after the death of her ex-fiancée.

Alberto Herrera died just an hour after leaving the hospital grounds.

Now, Joanna Hurtado, the mother of his two children, is suing the hospital, claiming they should have done more to prevent him from leaving.

Outside the gates of the ICU, the mother and former partner of Herrera were joined by a small community Wednesday in protest following his death last August outside a nearby taco shop, where he collapsed shortly after leaving the hospital.

“I love my son with all my heart, you know,” shared Tina Cota, Herrera’s mother. “No matter what his mom was going through throughout the years, he was always there for me.” 

Herrera was 32 years old when he died and a father of two daughters who are now ages nine and two.

“They’re super young and they need their dad. They won’t have him anymore,” said Hurtado.

She claims medical staff at Paradise Valley Hospital negligently allowed Herrera to leave the hospital, despite him showing critical signs of mental suffering, including hallucinations and disorientation.

However, medical records she obtained say Herrera was lucid. “I feel like they’re just trying to cover themselves because you can’t let a person leave in the way that he was,” said Hurtado.

Herrera was originally admitted for acute pancreatitis, kidney failure, and what was believed to be alcohol withdrawal.

According to hospital records shared with Hurtado, Herrera demanded to leave despite his state, but staff say they pleaded with Herrera, asking him to stay.

A spokesperson for the hospital responded to FOX 5’s inquiry regarding the litigation with the following statement:

“We are unable to comment due to ongoing litigation. We continue to express our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Herrera.”

Although patients have the right to choose to leave, Herrera’s family said physicians there should have made him stay.

Now they’re fighting back with a lawsuit, which alleges that Paradise Valley Hospital “negligently examined, diagnosed, and treated” Herrera.

“My kids miss him and them asking for him is the worst for a parent,” Hurtado said. “So if I can try to make a change for other people, I’m going to try my hardest. Because I don’t want other little girls crying for their dad.”

Hurtado said the point of the lawsuit is to prevent a situation like Herrera’s from happening to more families

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court. As of now, it does not list a sum.