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Desecration of Body by Mortuary Is Grounds for Mental Distress of Surviving Spouse
Description Problems at a mortuary's crypt were the cause of leakage in a casket. Mortuary secretly removed the casket, threw it and part of the body away, and resealed crypt. Surviving spouse's award of $2 million for mental distress over treatment of body upheld by Alabama high court.
Topic Torts
Key Words Outrage; Desecration
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts When she died, Faye Lloyd was embalmed by a funeral home, which turned a sealed casket over to Gray for placement in a crypt that had been purchased by Faye and Fred Lloyd for their interment. Metal in the crypt reacted with the casket, forming holes that let air in, causing fluids to leak, and the crypt to smell strongly. Gray pried open the casket and poured chemicals on Mrs. Lloyd. Part of what remained of her body was put in another casket, which was put in the crypt. The original casket and other remains were buried at an unmarked location. When a Gray employee told Mr. Lloyd what happened, he sued and was awarded $2 million. Gray appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Gray, "acting under the cover of night, swearing those present to secrecy, acting without permission of the family, and acting without the proper legal permits, pried open Faye Lloyd's casket" and improperly treated and disposed of her remains. At trial, Gray requested a general-verdict form, which does not distinguish between compensatory and punitive damages, so evaluation of the verdict is difficult. However, "the facts of this case would support an award of compensatory damages for mental anguish" and punitive damages that would be in the range awarded.
Citation Gray Brown-Service Mortuary, Inc. v. Lloyd, 1999 WL 14704 (Slip Copy, Sup. Ct., Ala.)

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