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YOUNGSTOWN Lawsuit over body mix-up is over



Published: Wed, May 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A Canfield woman said she wanted vindication, not a payday, from the case.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A local family's fight against a funeral home for mixing up bodies is over.

The Ohio Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Cynthia Audia of Canfield and her father, Sam Beshara of Youngstown. The high court also declined to remand the matter to the 7th District Court of Appeals for reconsideration.

"We're pretty much done," Audia said. "What the Supreme Court has said is that a funeral home can be negligent and nothing can be done about it."

Atty. Patrick Corrigan of Akron, who represented Rossi Bros. Funeral Home, Boardman, said the high court made the right call in declining to hear the case.

"This decision reflects the wise decision of the court of appeals," Corrigan said. "We're excited about the result."

What happened: The case stems from the December 1995 funeral of Connie Beshara, who was Beshara's wife and Audia's mother. When relatives arrived at the funeral home for calling hours, they found another woman's body in Mrs. Beshara's coffin, wearing her clothes.

Mrs. Beshara's body was in a different coffin in a different room, wearing clothes that belonged to a different woman.

When funeral home staff realized the mistake, they took the bodies behind closed doors, switched the clothes and put the bodies in their proper coffins. Neither family was charged for the funerals.

Beshara and Audia sued the funeral home in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, claiming emotional distress. In September 1998, a jury awarded them $75,000 each, but the court of appeals overturned that ruling in December 2000.

The family then asked the high court to either accept an appeal or order the appellate court to reconsider its decision.

Traumatic experience: Audia said the trauma of the experience has left her unable to attend calling hours or funerals of friends and relatives. "I suffer from panic attacks," she said.

She is upset that her family has been portrayed as "money grubbing" by the funeral home's insurance company. She said vindication, not money, is why the family pursued the matter in court.

"I wanted somebody in a higher court to say that what they did was wrong, but I didn't get that," Audia said.

Corrigan said the other family involved did not sue the funeral home. He said Mrs. Beshara's family did not prove they were under threat of physical peril, which Ohio law requires in order to prove infliction of emotional distress.

"If you take their side in this, then anyone who takes part in a ceremony where something falls apart should be able to recover damages for emotional distress," Corrigan said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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