The Undead Son, Elder Law Attorney, Woodstock, GA

A California man had been told that his son had passed away.  He spent a lot of money on the son’s funeral and was surprised when he talked to his son on the phone less than two weeks later.

Frank Kerrigan, an elderly California man, knew that his son had problems. He had a lot of problems.

The son suffered from mental illness and was homeless.

Therefore, it probably was not that big of a surprise to Kerrigan, when he received a phone call from the Orange County, California coroner’s office to inform him that his son had passed away. Kerrigan asked the coroner if he could see his son’s body and personally identify him.  However, he was told that was unnecessary since the coroner had confirmed the deceased’s identity using fingerprints.

Kerrigan arranged a funeral for his son and spent $20,000.

Other family members flew in from out of state to attend the funeral. However, 11 days later, Kerrigan received a phone call from a family friend who informed him that not only was his son not dead, he was standing right there.

Kerrigan then spoke to his son on the phone, as the Daily Mail reports in “Outrage as father is told his homeless son is dead and buries him in $20k funeral – only to be told 11 days later that it was a mistake by the coroner and that his son is very much ALIVE!.”

Kerrigan is suing the coroner’s office for damages that he suffered due to the false identification.

Cases of authorities mistakenly identifying a deceased person do not happen all that often.  However, they do happen. Because they do, it is important that someone who knew the deceased person view the body and confirm the identity.

Families should insist on it.

In this case, the family only held a funeral. Other cases of mistaken identity have been discovered during or after an estate administration, which creates even more legal difficulties.

Reference: Daily Mail (June 24, 2017) “Outrage as father is told his homeless son is dead and buries him in $20k funeral – only to be told 11 days later that it was a mistake by the coroner and that his son is very much ALIVE!.”


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