Orange County jury awards $1.5 million to family in coroner’s body misidentification case – San Bernardino Sun

An Orange County jury decided Tuesday, April 19, to award $1.5 million to a family that buried a stranger rather than their loved one because the body had been misidentified by the county Coroner’s Office.

After just three hours of deliberation following a three-week trial, jurors concluded the Coroner’s Office engaged in negligence and intentional misrepresentation and awarded Frank J. Kerrigan, 86, of Wildomar $1.1 million in damages and his 60-old-daughter, Carole Meikle of Silverado, $400,000.

The pair alleged in a civil lawsuit the Coroner’s Office erroneously informed them Kerrigan’s son, Frankie — who was homeless and suffering from schizophrenia at the time — had been found dead behind a Fountain Valley Verizon store on May 6, 2017, and identified through fingerprints.

However, that was untrue.

Eleven days after a funeral for Frankie Kerrigan, the father and daughter discovered he was still alive. When fingerprint results came back, it was determined they were those of John Dickens, a 54-year-old Kansas native who had died from an enlarged heart and cardiovascular disease.

Attorney Norm Watkins, who represented the county, said the initial misidentification of the body was clearly a mistake, but there no intention to deceive the plaintiffs. After the verdict was read, Watkins said the county had not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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