NC Landmark Case of Misidentification of Corpse
New Jersey family of Lorraine Young awarded nearly $400,000.
Attorney Michael Maggiano represented members of a New Jersey family who suffered severe trauma over the misidentification and subsequent body swapping their loved one, Lorraine Young.
On the weekend of September 12-15, 2008, Lorraine Young of Lawnside, New Jersey, along with her friends, Jessica Gorbey and Gina Johnson, went on a vacation to Cancun, Mexico.
Returning from their trip, the women flew from Cancun to Charlotte on Monday, September 15, 2008, but missed their connecting flight home to Philadelphia. They decided to rent a vehicle and drive home that same night.
Shortly after 11:00 p.m. on I-85 through Guilford County, North Carolina, their vehicle left the roadway on the inside median and crashed down onto U.S. 29. The vehicle crashed into the concrete barrier, overturned, and skidded upside down along the barrier separating the two lanes of U.S. 29. All three women were killed in the accident.
Edward and January Young broke the news of Young’s death to her mother and father, Rosaleen and Robert Young.
Based on the assurances made by Trooper Hurley and Medical Examiner Key, both parents were told that they would be able to view their daughter’s body. Edward Young and his siblings then began the process of planning for the visitation, funeral, and burial of their sister.
The Young family notified their friends and family members about the arrangements, including family members in Ireland who would be traveling to New Jersey for Young’s funeral.
At the funeral home, they were led to a box with a shipping label and information indicating the box contained the body of Lorraine Young. Upon opening the shipping container, only the corpse’s face was visible, the remainder of the body covered by a sheet within a plastic bag. Young’s siblings immediately realized the body was not that of their sister.
Guilford County Medical Examiner Ronald Key failed to perform autopsies on the victims and instead relied on the preliminary on-site identification of Trooper Hurley to “positively identify” the bodies, even though the fire that ensued disfigured at least one of the victim’s faces.
In the 66 page ruling written by Commissioner Gheen, he says “it must be acknowledged that Key’s negligence deprived the Young family generally of the socially expected rites of interment that facilitate the processes of grief and bereavement.”
In an unprecedented decision in the state of North Carolina, the N.C. Industrial Commission has awarded nearly $400,000 to the grieving family.
Deputy Commissioner Stephen Gheen harshly criticized the local medical examiner in Guilford County and ordered the state to pay damages for emotional and mental distress suffered by the Young family.
The damage awards for Edward Young and Cynthia Munoz, facilitated by their attorney, Michael Maggiano recognize an appreciable element of their emotional conditions including the metal anguish of undertaking the identification of the corpse sent to them in error, and the frantic search for their sister’s body before probable cremation. These two individuals have exhibited more and more consistent symptoms of classifiable emotional distress. January Young’s award recognizes her depression.
- Edward Young was awarded and will recover from the NC Department of Health and Human Services the sum of $184,750.00
- Cynthia Munoz was awarded $137,500.00 from NC Department of Health and Human Services
- January Young was awarded $75,000.00 from NC Department of Health and Human Services
This is a landmark decision in the state of North Carolina and there are few cases if any like it in the United States.
For the original NC Industrial Commission DECISION ORDER, Young vs NC DHHS click in this link.
To search the public record of the Deputy Commissioner’s decisions click here.
Image Source: Renee Chou of WRAL News 5