The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld a verdict against a crematory that included a certificate with the wrong woman's information on an urn given to two Dorchester women after their mother died in 2003.
Although the urn itself, the box it came in and the envelope containing a cremation certificate correctly identified the remains as being those of Greta Marie Brown, the certificate had another woman's information on it. In 2007, a Dorchester District Court jury agreed with Kimmy and Joy Brown that that was enough to send them into an emotional tailspin and warrant damages of $100,000 apiece for negligence.
Bayview Crematory, LLC, of Seabrook, NH, appealed, arguing that even if it thought the verdict was correct, which it didn't, it violated a state law limiting damages to $25,000.
The appeals court, however, said that restriction would have only come into play if Bayview had raised it before or during the trial, which it did not.
And while the company was able to show the remains were, in fact, those of Greta Marie Brown, that doesn't obviate the negligence of putting the wrong certificate in with the urn, the appeals court ruled, noting the testimony of the sisters on opening the envelope containing it:
Kimmy described feeling numb, not knowing whether the ashes were those of her mother; she feared that the ashes had been combined with those of another person. She was sad, angry, worried, scared, and depressed; she cried and was unable to feel any closure in regard to her mother's death. She saw a physician who treated her for depression and prescribed medication. Joy was upset and hurt, and also feared that the ashes were not her mother's or could have been mixed with those of another person. She began to shake and became nervous and stressed; her grieving was made worse, and she started to drink on weekends.