Negligence After Death: Pa. Family Sues Hospital and Funeral Home

We usually write about wrongful death cases on this Philadelphia blog, but a recent personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania was filed that is so unique and startling that we thought it was worth sharing.

A wrongful death suit is filed when negligence supposedly caused the untimely death of a loved one. But what if it wasn’t negligence that caused a loved one’s death; rather, the negligence occurred after the death had already devastated the family? It’s easy to see how emotions would be even rawer at the point after the loss, making the recent Pennsylvania accusation of negligence against a hospital and funeral home so striking.

According to The Tribune Democrat, a family lost their loved one while he was staying in a hospital. The family doesn’t believe that negligence on behalf of the hospital caused the death, but that doesn’t mean that the hospital is completely off of the hook. Somehow, during the tradeoff of the decedent’s body between the hospital and the funeral home, the wrong body was picked up and later prepared and presented as the family’s loved one.

The family recognized the emotional, stress-inducing error just before the planned viewing, which had to be cancelled and postponed due to the error. It isn’t just the shock of being presented the wrong body that has scarred the family, but imagine how scary it was for them as they were wondering where their loved one’s body was if it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

Sources report that the body was found and hadn’t been cremated or buried. The family was able to have the body at the funeral, but not before they went through the draining stress that the hospital’s and/or funeral home’s mistakes had caused them. The family has filed a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania against the defendants, seeking damages for causing them emotional distress, depression and humiliation during a time when there was enough hardship before them.

We will post an update when there are developments in this civil case.

Source: The Tribune Democrat, “Family sues over wrong body and viewing,” Sandra K. Reabuck, March 31, 2012