OMW Wins Defense Verdict in Claim for Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

August 01, 2016

Daniel W. Glavin and Angela M. Jones successfully defended a funeral home in a claim alleging that embalming techniques employed were sub-par.
Plaintiffs were the survivors of a young Kenyan immigrant who drowned in an apartment complex pool. Because of the accidental nature of the death, an autopsy was ordered. In the course of the autopsy, the section of the carotid artery which is typically used by a funeral director to infuse the face and head with preservative embalming fluid was inadvertently removed, so the embalmer instead employed a topical embalming substance generally accepted within the field. The family complained that the decedent’s remains “didn’t look like himself” at a showing at the funeral home and alleged the funeral home failed to present the remains well.
The remains were then shipped to Kenya for a second showing and burial. The Kenyan morticians opened the casket in the presence of the family, who claimed the remains were decomposing, causing them emotional distress. There was testimony from skilled and expert witnesses that the techniques the embalmer used were reasonable under the circumstances, and that usual and customary practice required a funeral director receiving such shipped embalmed remains to “clean up” the remains before allowing the family to view them. Decedent’s mother claimed to have been shamed by her family and clan in her home village because Kenyan culture holds remains in the same veneration as the living person.
At the end of a four-day jury trial, a jury returned a verdict for defendant after the plaintiffs asked for an award in excess of $1 million. For more information please contact Daniel W. Glavin and/or Angela M. Jones at (219)-322-0450, or by e-mail at [email protected], [email protected].