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ARTICLE ID 162215

$________ - MORTUARY NEGLIGENCE - MISHANDLING OF REMAINS - MEDICAL EXAMINER'S OFFICE RELEASES WRONG CORPSE FOR BURIAL IN PAUPER'S GRAVE - NEED FOR CREMATION WHEN BODY ULTIMATELY LOCATED AND EXHUMED FOUR TO FIVE DAYS LATER - EMOTIONAL INJURIES - DAMAGES ONLY.

Bronx County, NY

This action involved a mishandling of a corpse by the ME’s office. The plaintiff’s decedent was an African-American man named George Jones and the office sent the body for burial in a paupers’ cemetery in Pennsylvania because they thought the decedent was one Jorge Jones, a Hispanic man who was ten years older. The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on liability was granted.

The decedent passed away the beginning of Thanksgiving week, ________. The family had arranged for a funeral and much of the extended family would have already been in town because of the Thanksgiving Holiday. The evidence reflected that when the undertaker went to pick him up from the Medical Examiner’s office, it was determined that the body had already been released. The plaintiff contended that the initial inability to locate the remains of her son created extensive emotional upset.

The evidence subsequently revealed that the Medical Examiner’s office had mistakenly sent the body of the decedent, rather the other individual for burial in the paupers’ grave in Pennsylvania. The body was located in Pennsylvania several days later and exhumed. The decomposition was such that the family felt there was no choice, but to have the body cremated.

The plaintiff contended that the experience caused great emotional upset which was separate and apart from the grief attendant to the death itself. The plaintiff related that the mother had picked out her son’s funeral suit, which could not be used. The plaintiff also maintained that the jury should consider that the funeral was the final chance of the mother to have the solace from whispering "I love you." The plaintiff related that she is a member of the Baptist Church and a very religious individual. The plaintiff related that the emotional upset both before the body was located and cremated and after this ceremony continued to be very substantial. The plaintiff related that she had trouble eating and sleeping and lost approximately 20 pounds during this period.

The defendant maintained that the jury should consider that an innocent mix-up only had occurred and that a conservative award and a heartfelt apology would be appropriate. The defendant also pointed out that the plaintiff mother did not require psychotherapy.

The plaintiff maintained that the jury she consider that such apology had not been forthcoming. The plaintiff further contended that the nature of this type of upset is such that the absence of a need for psychotherapy clearly does not reflect the absence of the emotional turmoil which would be naturally expected to stem from such an event. The plaintiff also testified that she continues to keep the urn containing the ashes, notwithstanding that the need for cremation was very upsetting.

The jury awarded $________.

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