According to the Los Angeles Times, earlier this year the Orange County Coroner misidentified a body as Frankie M. Kerrigan, which was discovered behind a local phone store. When the Orange County Coroner believed that the body belonged to Kerrigan, a local homeless man, they proceeded to cremate the remains. 17 days later, Mr. Kerrigan turned up alive at a friend’s house.
The Orange County Coroner later said that the identity of the cremated body was actually another local homeless man, 54 year-old John Dickens. However, the Kerrigan family believes that the evidence shows that was actually a 3rd, unidentified person who died at a local phone store.
The family of Frankie Kerrigan, who was misidentified as dead when he was alive and well, filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Coroner’s office and Chapman Funeral Homes for the blunder. The family claims that the department has carelessly misidentified the body due to the fact that they assumed that the individual was likely a transient, thinking that no one would probably care about the who it actually was.
Allegations of Misrepresentation, Negligence and Emotional Distress
However bizarre this case may seem, it’s not considered a victimless case. Frankie Kerrigan’s family underwent the agony of going through the funeral services for the loss of their family member. His sister Carol Meikle believed she lost her brother, and Frank Sr. and his wife believed they lost their son. The Kerrigan family mourned and grieved the loss of Frankie Jr., only to find out 17 days later that he was still alive. As sad as this is, there is still the allegation of a third individual who has yet to be identified in this debacle, and another family who potentially went through the same thing.
We contacted the Kerrigan family’s attorney, James DeSimone who said: “The Kerrigan family wants answers. They want to find out how the Orange County Coroner’s Office could lie to them when it had done little to nothing to identify the body. And once we get those answers, we want to make sure it never happens to another family again.”
Government Agencies Duty of Care
Generally, local government agencies are left with the duty of ensuring that those who are homeless are properly cared for in a responsible manner which is safe for them as well as the overall community. The Orange County Coroner’s office website states:
Those duties include investigation into the circumstances surrounding all deaths falling within the Coroner’s Jurisdiction for the purpose of determining the identity of the deceased, the medical cause of death, the manner of death, and the date and time of death.
Unfortunately, this case illustrates how a government agency like the OC Coroner Division allegedly failed to properly care according to their own Mission Statement. Amazingly, this case is not unique and there are plenty of other scenarios in which a government agency has been shown to act negligently in regard to a responsibility they had. Other negligent scenarios may involve, but are not limited to:
- Poorly maintained public property leading to slip and fall accidents,
- Personal injury incidents,
- Failure to maintain a public roads or highway design hazards
- Reckless or carelessness government employees causing injury.
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries or grievances due to a government agency or department, you should know that you may have the opportunity to seek monetary compensation for your grievances. Seek the advice and support of a qualified Orange County injury attorney who can guide you through your legal options. Filing a claim against a government department may be stressful and could be highly complex. An experienced lawyer can answer your questions and help protect your rights.