Friday, December 9, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Funeral Home Ducks|Suit Over Brain in a Bag

(CN) - A Utah funeral home that allegedly slipped the bagged brain of dead woman among her personal effects cannot be sued in New Mexico, the state appeals court ruled.

After Maria Romero died in a car accident in Utah, her son, Michael, arranged to have her body shipped to New Mexico where the rest of the family lived.

SereniCare prepared the body in Utah and turned it over to an Ohio shipping company that in turn brought the body to De Vargas Funeral Home in New Mexico.

At a viewing before the funeral, a De Vargas staffer gave the Romeros a bag of Maria's personal effects.

Later, after discovering a "foul odor" coming from the bag, the family discovered that it contained a Ziploc bag containing a brain, labeled with Maria's name and the word "brain."

The family sued SereniCare, the shipping company, De Vargas and the New Mexico funeral home's director, but a Bernalillo County judge dismissed the claims against SeriniCare, finding a lack of personal jurisdiction.

A divided three-judge panel of the New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that SereniCare had insufficient contact with the state.

SereniCare maintained only two offices, both in Utah, and its acts fell outside New Mexico's long-arm statutes, according to the ruling.

"As an initial matter, we are not prepared under the circumstances of this case to characterize decedent's body as a 'product,' much less a product being placed into commerce," Judge Cynthia Fry wrote for the majority joined by Judge Jonathan Sutten.

Judge Timothy Garcia dissented. "Although the present case did not involve the sale of a good or product transported into the stream of commerce, the funeral services provided by SereniCare were part of a direct and continuous stream of commerce that began in Utah and concluded in New Mexico," he wrote.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.