SW Legal studies in Business

Some of What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
Description

Nevada high court held that under state law, there may be a suit for emotional distress, by affected family members, stemming from the loss of body parts by a mortuary when a body was embalmed and returned to its home for burial.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Emotional Distress; Negligence; Conversion; Dead Bodies

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Richard Boorman, age 29, from England, died from excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs while in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. His body was taken to the County Coroner for an autopsy. The coroner removed internal organs for examination which, he contends, were put in a plastic bag next to the body. The body was sent to a mortuary where it was embalmed and then returned to England. The internal organs disappeared. Boormanís family sued the Nevada mortuary in federal district court for emotional distress and negligence in handling the body and for conversion of the missing internal organs. The court certified questions about the matter to the Nevada Supreme Court to determine Nevada law on the matter.

Decision

Questions Answered. Under Nevada law, close family members who were aware of the death of a loved one and for whom mortuary services were provided may assert an emotional distress claim for the negligent handling of a deceased personís remains. A mortuary voluntarily undertakes a duty to competently prepare the decedentís body for the benefit of the bereaved. None of the family members are required to have observed or have hand any sensory perception of the offensive conduct, nor need present evidence of any physical manifestation of emotional distress. Nevada does not recognize a claim for conversion of a deceased human body or its parts, as there is no property right in a deceased body or its remains.

Citation Boorman v. Nevada Memorial Cremation Society, ---P.3d--- (2010 WL 2977387, Sup. Ct., Nev., 2010)

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