The Law Offices of Flint & Crawford
Negligent Mishandling of A Corpse
Sort of an odd subject for a blog, but this has come up several times in my career.
The first time it came up, the funeral home lost the body and the Wake turned into a horror show. The family of Madame X (a pseudonym) was gathered to say their farewells. The emotions were running high and no one wanted to cause additional upset. After a half hour went by, a few of the family members commented that the deceased did not look like the person they remembered. At first they thought that the change was a result of her last illness. Well that started the avalanche of doubt - “Wait, this person is too small.”, “She’s too short.” and “She does not appear even to look like Aunt Mary.” Then it hit the family - this person was not their loved one.
The questions began to be asked of the personnel of the funeral home. “That is not her!”, her niece shouted, as the others began to faint. The family was in an uproar and to make matters worse, the funeral home had no answers as to what happened to Aunt Mary. They had lost, misplaced or buried her in another grave. Her body was never found and as a result the funeral home, the people that were in charge of embalming and dressing the deceased, paid a six-figure settlement to the family. After having the grief of the loss, it was the negligent infliction of emotional distress that led to the large settlement to the family.
Recently we represented a family who paid an astronomical sum for the services. As the pallbearers carried the deceased down the aisle, the coffin was dropped and the body was exposed to the attendees. The service was a closed casket service because an accident had so disfigured the deceased that they had to keep the casket closed. They were forced to suffer the shock, pain, and anguish of seeing their loved one dropped from the casket while being brought down the aisle.
Some cases are simple negligence, others rise to a level that “shocks the conscious”. If you have any questions about how a funeral was conducted for your loved one, please call our office to discuss it. We are here to help