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Suing for Mortuary Neglect

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Losing a beloved friend or family member is grief enough -- we don't need our sadness compounded by funeral home or mortuary mistakes. We put our trust in professionals for interment services that our loved ones will be handled with care and dignity.

So what can you do if, by negligence, intent, or fraud, they betray that trust? Here are ways you can sue for mortuary neglect:

Traditional Negligence

Mortuary neglect can take many forms, but in most cases the harm was accidental. Misplacing or mixing up bodies or failing to preserve a body properly can happen due to carelessness or even recklessness, and the mortuary or funeral home can be liable under traditional negligence law.

The elements of a negligence case are:

  • Duty: The mortuary owes customers and clients a duty of reasonable care in caring for and preparing remains for burial or interment.
  • Breach of Duty: The mortuary breached that duty by failing to exercise reasonable care in handling, preparing, or displaying the remains.
  • Cause: The mortuary's breach caused your damages.
  • Damages: You must prove a legally recognized injury, whether the injury was financial (needing to re-embalm, re-bury, or remove the remains) or emotional.

Intentional Torts

Sadly, not every form of mortuary neglect is accidental. Mortuaries and funeral homes have been known to illegally sell organs, illegally dispose of remains, and otherwise abuse bodies before or during the interment process. Any of these can be considered as fraud or an intentional tort, leading to civil liability.

In addition, you may have a claim for emotional distress. While claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress can be complicated, the purposeful mistreatment of a loved one's remains could certainly qualify as extreme or outrageous conduct that intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress.

In most cases, mortuary standards are set by state law, and they may vary. If you think a mortuary or funeral home has neglected or mistreated the remains of a loved one, you may want to talk to an experienced injury attorney where you live.

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