Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Some Things Just Shouldn’t Stay In Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority claims that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas®”  However, there are some things that just shouldn’t be left in Vegas.  The Nevada Cremation Society and Clark County Coroner learned that lesson the hard way in the case of Boorman v. Nevada Cremation Society, Inc., 126 Nev. Adv. Op. 29, 236 P.3d 4 (2010).

Nevada Insurance Law, Mills & Associates Nevada Insurance and Coverage Lawyers 702-240-6060Richard Boorman came to Las Vegas from Great Britain to attend a bachelor party. Mr. Boorman overindulged.  He died from the effects of excessive alcohol and drugs.  The Clark County Coroner’s office picked up his body and completed an autopsy.  The Coroner then sent the body to the Nevada Cremation Society to be embalmed.  Along the way, the internal organs, which had been removed during the autopsy, were never returned to the body.  When the embalmed remains got back to England, the authorities found that someone had placed a rolled up sheet in the body cavity.  The internal organs were never recovered.

The family sued for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.  The Coroner and the Society countered that before a person can recover for claims of emotional distress, the claimant must demonstrate some physical illness or injury arising from the distress, just like in the case of Betsinger v. D.R. Horton, 126 Nev. Adv. Op. 17, 232 P.3d 433, (2010).  See our discussion of that case HERE.  However, the family said that in cases where remains are negligently handled, the family should not have to observe the offending acts or demonstrate any physical manifestations to recover.  The U.S. District Court sent this and other questions to the Nevada Supreme Court under NRAP 5 to receive an answer.

In its opinion, the Nevada Supreme Court sided with the family.  The Court said that close family members who were aware that mortuary services were being performed did not have to observe the mishandling of the remains and did not have to have any physical manifestation of the emotional distress to bring an emotional distress claim.

The courts have typically expanded the remedies and lowered the bar as to what needs to be proven to succeed on a claim for NIED.  However, we at Mills & Associates believe that the outcome in this case is limited to a very narrow set of facts, namely the handling of the remains of a deceased relative.  If you are confronted with a claim for NIED, feel free to contact us to discuss what we believe the plaintiff will be obligated to prove to withstand a motion for partial summary judgment as to this cause of action.

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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