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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Family Says Coroner Didn’t Try Hard Enough

VISALIA, Calif. (CN) - A Central Valley coroner's office cremated a man three months before telling his family he was dead, the family claims in court.

Alfonso, Carmen, and Jesse Montano sued Tulare County, its Office of the Sheriff Coroner and Deputy Joel Robertson in Tulare County Court on behalf of Paul Montano, Alfonso's son and Carmen and Jesse's brother.

The family, who live in the Bay Area, say the Tulare County Fire Department responded to a call about an "unresponsive male" by the roadside on Aug. 14, 2014 and took him to the Tulare District Hospital, where he was identified as Paul Montano.

He was not breathing and had a 108 degree fever. Though he was rushed to the emergency room, where the staff tried to resuscitate him, he died soon after arrival. Six days later, a county pathologist did an autopsy and determined he had died of hypothermia, according to the complaint.

The family says they reported Paul missing to the Milpitas Police Department in San Jose on Dec. 12. Eleven days later, Milpitas police told the family that Paul was dead and to contact the Tulare County Coroner's Office for more information.

When Jesse Montano called the coroner to ask about his brother, the office confirmed that Paul had died on Aug. 8, "but that the coroner's office had trouble locating the family," according to the Nov. 25 complaint.

The coroner's office told Jesse his brother had been cremated on Sept. 26 - almost three months earlier, according to the complaint.

"The Montano family had a prearranged fully paid funeral and burial plot for Paul. It was not the Montano family's desire to cremate Paul Montano. The Montano family has been deprived of the right to intern Paul as they planned and as their religion prescribes," the complaint states.

The family claims the coroner's office did not make legally required reasonable attempts to contact them before cremating Paul, which caused them to suffer "economic loss and emotional distress."

The defendants did not immediately return requests for comment.

The Montanos seek damages for negligence, emotional distress and public entity liability.

They are represented by Jeffrey Hubins with Schauman & Hubins of Pleasanton.

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