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Funeral Home Negligence in Alabama

Posted on May 4, 2016

Can funeral homes be sued for negligence in Alabama?

Funeral home negligence suits are extremely rare in Alabama. However, misplaced corpses, premature cremations and other “accidents” are fairly common. Additionally, post-funeral burial mismanagement is also commonplace. For these type incidents, involving cemetery burial mistakes or poor treatment of corpses during the funeral process, Alabama allows a cause of action only when there has been “outrageous” conduct resulting in the infliction of severe emotional distress.

The tort of outrage is limited to those situations where the conduct is “utterly intolerable in civilized society”. For the most part, outrage claims can only be brought in the most extreme situations where the at-fault party does something that affects the feelings and emotions of the deceased’s family to an outrageous degree. The essence of the claim is that severe emotional distress is inflicted on persons at a time when they are most vulnerable. Generally speaking, the Alabama Supreme Court only allows outrage claims against morticians and funeral homes when there has been some incident involving the body, such as dropping the casket, a bungled embalming, burial in the wrong spot, etc. However, there have been a number of claims made for desecration of graves, damage to a tombstone, etc.

For those making a claim for funeral home negligence, compensation claims are mostly limited to mental anguish or, in extreme examples, punitive damages designed to punish the funeral home. Valuation on these claims is hard to address, since juries are given wide latitude in determining damages. In short, there is no slide-rule for what a jury can award; each case is different. Always seek counsel with an Alabama burial or cemetery attorney for more answers if you have been a victim of funeral home negligence.