Wrongful Withholding Of A Corpse From Relatives Lawyers
Can I Sue For Wrongful Withholding Of A Corpse?
Generally, the surviving spouse or next of kin has the right to immediate possession of a body in the same condition it was in at the time of death for the purpose of arranging for final disposition of remains. Any unwarranted interference with the right to burial is an actionable offense. Most courts limit those who can recover to the surviving spouse or next of kin.
What Kind Of Damages Are Recoverable?
Interference with the right to burial, which includes the wrongful withholding of a body from the next of kin, is not the type of act which is likely to result in substantial economic loss, and in most cases the only substantial damage done is to the feelings of the next of kin. Therefore, most courts hold that mental anguish can be an element of damages. A small number of courts still require a physical injury to be connected with the mental anguish.
Where an act was done intentionally and maliciously, some courts have assessed punitive damages ($ to punish extremely bad behavior) against the wrongdoer. For example, an undertaker who took custody of a body and refused to turn it over until he was paid for embalming it was held liable for punitive damages because his behavior was wilfull and showed great indifference to the persons involved.
What Are Some Examples Of Wrongful Withholding Of A Corpse?
Whether or not recovery will be permitted for wrongful withholding of a corpse often depends on the particular circumstances of a case.
Families have been able to recover from those who wrongfully retained possession of a corpse as a lien for services rendered in transporting the body or preparing it for burial. However, an undertaker's mere refusal, until he is paid, to bury a corpse placed in his possession for that purpose has been held not to constitute a wrong where the body was returned to the relatives on demand so that alternate arrangements could be made.
Refusal to turn over the body to the next of kin until an investigation is made has been held to constitute wrongful withholding of a corpse, for which recovery for mental anguish was allowed. However, a failure to immediately notify the deceased's next of kin of his death, while termed reprehensible, has been held not to constitute a withholding of a corpse.
Damages have been assessed against one who, for personal reasons, intentionally conceals a corpse. Also, a relative of the deceased may be held liable to the spouse of the deceased for withholding the body, if it is determined that the
spouse has a superior right to possession of the remains.
Should I Consult An Attorney About Wrongful Withholding Of A Corpse?
Dealing with the death of a loved one is always a difficult and emotional time. If someone has refused to release the body of a loved one, they may be liable for your mental anguish. An attorney can help you deal with the responsible party and help you assert your right to recover for your damages.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 05-28-2009 12:45 PM PDT
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