Steve Gurnee & John Mason Secure Big Win


ADTA Members Steve Gurnee and John Mason Secure Big Win for California Funeral Home
Steve Gurnee and John Mason of Gurnee Mason & Forestiere LLP (Roseville, California) recently secured a defense verdict for its funeral home client, Centerpoint Services, Inc. after a contentious and hard-fought jury trial in Northern California.  In Viveros et al. v. Centerpoint Services, Inc. et al. (Contra Costa County Superior Court No. MSC 14-00701), plaintiffs Florence Viveros and Elizabeth Dennison contracted with a local funeral home to cremate their almost 92-year-old father’s remains after he died from COPD.  Suspecting that asbestos exposure, rather than old age, was the actual cause of death, and intending to file an asbestos-related wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs asked the funeral home to transport the decedent’s remains to the coroner’s office so that his lungs could be removed for testing before the cremation took place.  Because of an unfortunate paperwork error, the cremation was commenced before the transport occurred.  However, the mistake was discovered and the cremation halted in time for decedent’s intact torso to be taken to the coroner.  Subsequent testing of the lungs confirmed the presence of asbestos and plaintiffs ultimately settled their wrongful death lawsuit for $130,000.  Nevertheless, plaintiffs sued the funeral home and claimed $1 million in general damages from alleged emotional distress and PTSD caused by learning about the premature cremation and voluntarily reading the coroner’s description of the decedent’s body after the cremation was halted.
After an 18-day trial and four hours of deliberation, the jury returned a defense verdict for Mr. Gurnee’s and Mr. Mason’s client, finding that while the funeral home had been negligent in prematurely starting the cremation, neither plaintiff had suffered PTSD or any other form of serious emotional distress that would warrant an award of monetary damages.

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An ADTA prime membership is, in essence, a statement of the high regard in which defense trial attorneys are held by his or her peers in the defense trial bar of their city and state or province.