$1.5M Awarded in Damages Against OC Coroner’s Office

Frank J. Kerrigan, 86, left, of Wildomar, his daughter Carole Meikle, 62, center, of Silverado, and their attorney V. James DeSimone, right, are shown outside the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, after an Orange County jury decided to award $1.5 million to the Kerrigan and Meikle family that buried a stranger rather than their loved one, Frankie Kerrigan, because the body had been misidentified by the county Coroner’s Office. Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG

An Orange County, Calif. jury has awarded $1.5 million in damages and found the OC Coroner’s Office negligent for giving the wrong remains to a Southern California family for burial. Frank Kerrigan and his daughter Carole Meikle sued the county for the 2017 body mix-up. The month-long trial concluded today with the jury ruling the county’s negligence was a major factor in causing harm to Kerrigan and Meikle.

Read original press release from 2018 here.

The jury also determined the county made a false representation of the facts when Kerrigan was told his son Frankie was identified through fingerprints. The family held a funeral and buried the person they thought was Frankie, not knowing the coroner had given them another man’s body. Eleven days after the funeral, Frankie, who is homeless, showed up at the home of one of the pallbearers.

“This has been injustice to our family from the very beginning. We have fought this legal fight for five years and we are grateful to the Orange County jurors who recognized the injustice. We are hopeful this verdict sends a message so this never happens to any family anywhere,” Kerrigan said.

The family’s attorney V. James DeSimone said the family hopes the jury verdict will help them care for Frankie Kerrigan.

“The jury not only found that the Orange County Coroner’s Office was negligent, but that its coroners made intentional misrepresentations to the Kerrigan family,” DeSimone said. “The jury’s verdict speaks volumes — Orange County should treat everyone with care and concern when dealing with issues as important as life and death. And if the county institutes a new fingerprint system make sure you provide training and make sure your coroners understand how the system works.”

The jury awarded $1.1 million to Frank Kerrigan and $400,000 to his daughter Carole Meikle.

For interviews, please contact Melissa McBride at 323-251-5712.

Related Media:

LA Times: The coroner said Frankie died, but he’s still alive. Now O.C. has to pay $1.5 million
CBS National: Jury awards family of man mistakenly declared dead $1.5 million. The wrong body was buried at “his” funeral.
Fox: California family awarded huge sum after officials incorrectly ID dead man as loved one
The Epoch Times: Family That Buried Stranger Wins $1.5 Million in Case Against Orange County
AP News: Jury awards $1.5M in California mistaken body ID case
The Telegraph: Jury awards $1.5M in California mistaken body ID case
US News & World Report: Jury Awards $1.5M in California Mistaken Body ID Case
Insurance Journal: Jury Awards $1.5M to Family in California Mistaken Body ID Case
San Bernardino Sun: Orange County jury awards $1.5 million to family in coroner’s body misidentification case
Washington Examiner: California family awarded $1.5 million after coroner erroneously declared living man dead
Spectrum News 1: OC coroner said a man died, but he’s still alive; county now paying for the mistake
WRAL: California family awarded $1.5 million after wrongfully told their relative died 
NY Daily News: California family receives $1.5M settlement after coroner’s mix-up had them burying wrong body
NBC: Family awarded $1.5 million for wrongly being told family member had died
Orange County Register (Subscription Required): Orange County Jury Awards $15 Million to Family in Coroners Body Misidentification Case

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