Supreme Court Affirms Judgment Against Georgia Crematory Operator For Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Resulting from Mishandling of Corpse

September 21, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld the jury verdict against T. Ray Brent Marsh, operator of the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia, resulting from Marsh’s mishandling of a corpse.

In February of 2002, authorities discovered that Marsh had not been cremating bodies that were sent to Tri-State for cremation, but rather burying or dumping the bodies on Tri-State property. The investigation recovered bodies and body parts of approximately 230 persons in widely varying states of decay. Dr. Rondal D. Akers, Jr. and Lucinda Akers sued Marsh for mishandling their deceased son’s body, which had been sent to Tri-State for cremation, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress and claims under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and bailment. The jury awarded Dr. Akers damages in the amount of $275,000 and Mrs. Akers damages in the amount of $475,000.

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the evidence supported the jury verdict for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Court affirmed the dismissal of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and bailment claims. The Court found no error in the trial court’s jury instruction that the jury could draw a negative inference from Marsh’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refusal to answer questions during his pre-trial deposition in this civil case.

To read the Rondal Akers v. Prime Succession of Tennessee opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/akersrondalopn.pdf.