Member John A. Bass and Associate Ralph M. Monico obtained a dismissal in a negligence claim in Mercer County, Pa. against a hospital client for allegedly releasing a decedent’s body to his wife, when his children objected to the validity of their marriage and had obtained an adjudication in a separate court that they, and not the wife, had the power to direct disposition of the decedent’s remains. Plaintiff, a son of the decedent, filed a negligence action seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Messrs. Bass and Monico interposed preliminary objections arguing that the plaintiff’s principle cause of action, negligent mistreatment of a dead body, was not recognized as a viable cause of action under Pennsylvania law. They also argued that plaintiff’s 20 Pa. C.S. § 305 petition, through which he purportedly obtained the power to direct disposition of the remains, was invalid as it was filed outside the 48-hour statutory time window. The court agreed, adopting Burns White’s written arguments and avoiding potentially damaging publicity for our client.
Note: The results obtained in a particular case are heavily dependent on the facts and the law specific to that case.