A Southern California jury on Tuesday awarded $1.5 million to the household of a person who was mistakenly declared useless by authorities, leading to a stranger being buried within the household plot.
A Superior Courtroom jury discovered the Orange County coroner’s workplace dedicated negligence and intentional misrepresentation when it declared Frankie Kerrigan useless in 2017.
The workplace stated that Kerrigan, who was 57 on the time, had schizophrenia and often lived on the streets, had died that Might outdoors a retailer in Fountain Valley.
A police officer advised the coroner’s workplace that he believed the physique was Kerrigan’s based mostly on earlier contacts and a deputy coroner misidentified him based mostly on Kerrigan’s 11-year-old driver’s license photograph.
Fingerprints from the useless man have been despatched to the FBI and different regulation enforcement businesses and turned out to belong to a different man, John Dean Dickens, 54. Nevertheless, the identification code for the prints wasn’t checked as a consequence of an worker lack of coaching on a brand new digital system, a coroner’s official testified on the trial.
Authorities handed over a physique to the household, who held a Catholic Mass and a burial with an open-casket viewing.
“I touched his hair, and I stated goodbye,” Kerrigan’s father, Francis Kerrigan, testified on the trial in Santa Ana.
However a little bit over two weeks after the household was notified of Kerrigan’s dying, a good friend who had been a pallbearer on the funeral known as the daddy to say Kerrigan had proven up at his home.
Kerrigan stated he was “overjoyed for a couple of minute” earlier than considering: “Oh my God, there’s a stranger in Frankie’s grave.”
The jury awarded $1.1 million to Francis Kerrigan and $400,000 to his daughter, Carole Meikle.
“It is a wake-up name for the county and each single county on the market,” Kerrigan’s father stated. “It may possibly occur to anyone.”
Norm Watkins, who represented the county, stated there wasn’t any intention to deceive the household and the county will determine whether or not to enchantment the jury verdict.
Dickens, a Kansas native who died of coronary heart illness, was exhumed from the household gravesite and his physique returned to his kinfolk.
Kerrigan is at the moment dwelling in a lodge and hasn’t been advised concerning the verdict, his household stated.
James DeSimone, an lawyer who represented Kerrigan and Meikle, stated Kerrigan hasn’t been taking his treatment however he’s “comparatively secure, with a roof over his head.”
“If he has some inclination there’s a court docket case occurring, they’re afraid he’ll simply bolt,” the lawyer stated.
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