What To Do When a Funeral Home Violates Your Trust

The attorneys and staff at The Charles Boyk Law Offices, LLC were saddened to learn of the situation at the H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home in Toledo concerning an employee’s sexual assault of the corpse of Brenda Shular-Cameron.

Abuse of a corpse is a crime in Ohio. Specifically, the law states that anyone who treats a human corpse in a way that the person knows “would outrage reasonable family sensibilities” is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. The law goes on to state that anyone who treats a human corpse in a way that “would outrage reasonable community sensibilities” is guilty of a felony of the fifth degree.

Beyond criminal charges, there are civil causes of action that can be pursued as well. In situations such as this, claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy are some of the more common causes of action.

In order to be successful in bringing a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress without a contemporaneous physical injury, the emotional injuries sustained must be found to be both serious and reasonably foreseeable. To constitute serious emotional distress, the injury must go beyond trifling mental disturbance or mere upset or hurt feelings. Rather, the standard is whether a reasonable person, normally constituted, would be unable to cope adequately with the mental distress engendered by the circumstances of the case.

In order to be successful in bringing a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must prove...

(1) that the defendant intended to cause emotional distress or knew or should have known that the actions taken would result in severe emotional distress.

(2) that  the defendant's conduct was so extreme and outrageous that it went beyond all bounds of decency, and was such as to be considered utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

(3) that the defendant's actions proximately caused plaintiff's psychic suffering.

(4) that the plaintiff suffered serious mental anguish of a nature that no reasonable person could be expected to endure.

In order to be successful in bringing a claim for civil conspiracy, the plaintiff must prove a malicious combination of two or more persons, resulting in injury to a person or property, and the existence of an unlawful act independent of the actual conspiracy. The cause of action becomes available when more than one person participates or is complicit in the abuse of the corpse.

Other causes of action may be available depending on the circumstances of the specific case. Only a knowledgeable attorney can assess a given situation and recommend the appropriate course of action. The attorneys at The Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC are always here to answer any questions that you may have.

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