Negligent Handling of Remains in Santa Barbara
Providing Legal Assistance to Families Who Have Suffered Loss
It is difficult enough for a family to deal with the loss of a loved one without having to worry about whether their loved one’s remains will be treated with the dignity they deserve. Unfortunately, once a loved one has passed, they are largely out of the family’s sight and in the hands of a third party, be it a hospital employee, coroner, morgue worker, mortician, or cremator.
While most staff members who work with human remains are licensed and responsible professionals, there have been a number of chilling instances where funeral employees have acted in an improper and illegal manner.
If you feel that your family member’s remains have not been treated with the respect that is expected for a human body, you may have grounds for legal action. To find out more about how you can fight for your loved one’s integrity, contact NordstrandBlack PC for a free consultation. Call (805) 962-2022 to speak with a compassionate, knowledgeable lawyer at our Santa Barbara office.
Christensen vs. Superior Court of Los Angeles
Christensen vs. Superior Court of Los Angeles is a landmark 1991 case where legal action was taken against several Los Angeles-area mortuaries and crematoriums that were found to have desecrated the remains of some 16,500 bodies between 1980 and 1987. The desecration included practices such as using pliers to pull gold fillings out of decedents’ teeth, removing organs and selling them, and the mass cremation of multiple bodies, resulting in the mixing of ashes.
The case was pivotal - not just for its revelations, but because a California court ruled that acceptance of a body by a mortuary, funeral director, crematorium, etc., qualified as an “implied” contract with the deceased’s family. This meant that even though the bereaved family didn’t specify that the body shouldn’t be desecrated, handing it over "implied" that it wouldn’t be.
Civil Damages for Mishandling of Remains
Civil litigation against a funeral home or crematorium is not going to bring your loved one back, but it can help you and your family cope with the knowledge of their mistreatment. Damages for funeral home malpractice may include any of the following:
- Reimbursement for services not rendered, or products not used (incomplete embalming, not applying make-up, multiple uses of the same coffin, etc.).
- Pain and suffering, emotional duress, mental anguish, etc.
- Treatment for the above afflictions, including counseling, medication, hospitalization, etc.
- Punitive damages to punish the negligent funeral home, hospital, or crematorium.
Who Can Take Action?
In general, close family members are allowed to take action against a mortuary home that mishandled the remains of their loved one. A living spouse, parents, or children of the deceased usually have the right to file a lawsuit. In some cases, more distant family members like a cousin, niece, or nephew might be able to file a lawsuit if they can show they were particularly close to the deceased.
The loss of a loved one forces families to make difficult decisions at a difficult time. Don’t let an unscrupulous company take advantage of you as you grieve. The experienced legal team at NordstrandBlack PC can help you honor your lost loved one by getting the compensation you and your family need to heal and move on. Call (805) 962-2022 for a free case evaluation with a dedicated Santa Barbara personal injury lawyer.