Tuccillo v. Buckmiller Brothers Funeral Homes Inc.
Allegations that a funeral home intentionally attempted to make another body look like the decedent at a wake, and to prevent relatives from discovering the decedent had been cremated, are sufficient to allege extreme and outrageous conduct. The 95-year-old decedent was Roman Catholic and wanted a wake, embalmment, funeral mass and burial next to her husband, who predeceased her. The plaintiffs hired the defendant funeral home to prepare the decedent's body. Allegedly, the defendants cremated the decedent's body, placed the body of another, larger, deceased individual, "S.H.," in the decedent's clothes, which had to be cut to fit, and displayed S.H. in the decedent's casket. After the wake, the plaintiffs requested an examination of S.H.'s body, which lacked a dental bridge and a hip scar. Distraught relatives confronted the defendants. Police and emergency first responders were called. Months afterward, relatives held a funeral for the ashes. The plaintiffs alleged the defendants negligently interfered with the decedent's body. The defendants moved to strike and argued Connecticut does not recognize this cause of action. In Del Core v. Mohican Historic Housing Association, a 2004 decision, the Connecticut Appellate Court wrote, "Connecticut should recognize a claim for negligent interference with the right of a family member to control the proper burial of a deceased." Superior Court Judge A. Susan Peck wrote in Witt v. Yale New-Haven Hospital, a 2008 decision, "[M]orticians appear to owe a duty of care to the immediate family members of a decedent." The plaintiffs adequately alleged a cause of action, and the court denied the motion to strike. The defendants also argued that only the surviving spouse should be allowed to allege negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court found the decedent's children adequately alleged they shared family life with the decedent. Their allegations of negligent infliction of emotional distress survived. Allegations that the defendants knew S.H. was not the decedent and intentionally attempted to make S.H. look like the decedent, and to prevent the plaintiffs from discovering the decedent had been cremated, were sufficient to allege extreme and outrageous conduct, as required for intentional infliction of emotional distress.