The Tennessee Court of Appeals has recently released a decision in a case involving the mishandling of a corpse. I do not see this type of case in my practice on a routine basis, so I thought I would discuss the opinion. There are two teaching points in this case. First , one who intentionally, recklessly or negligently removes , withholds, mutilates or operates upon the body of a dead person or prevents its proper interment or cremation is subject to liability to a member of the family of the deceased who is entitled to the disposition of the body.Secondly, it is the surviving spouse who has the superior right to control the body. In Crawford v. J.Avery Bryan Funeral Home , several siblings and the parents of the deceased bought suit against the funeral home.Evidently, no one knows what happened to the body . The court found as a matter of law that the surviving spouse had standing to bring the lawsuit . Therefore , it dismissed the lawsuit filed by the siblings and the parents. Robert Crawford’s body has still not been found. What a tragedy for the family.
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