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Hospital Fails to Notify Next of Kin of Death, Court Denies Summary Judgement Motion


This case is being heard in the Queens County Supreme Court. The case involves Sonia Coto, etc. as the plaintiff and Mary Immaculate Hospital as the defendant. The attorney for the plaintiff is Christopher J. Albee. The attorney for the defendant is Jodi Ritter. The judge for the case is Phyllis Orlikoff Flug.


A New York Injury Lawyer said the plaintiff is seeking damages that are related to the defendant failing to promptly notify her when her Roger Coto, her brother, died. The defendant is moving for a summary judgment in the case stated that the efforts they made in order to locate the decedent’s relatives were sufficient and reasonable in relation to the situation and that the plaintiff did not suffer emotional harm from the delay of notification or alternatively any emotional harm suffered by the plaintiff was not caused by the defendant Mary Immaculate Hospital.

Court Discussion

It is well established that the relatives of the deceased have the right to possession immediately of the body for burial and preservation purposes. It is also established that a person will be awarded damages from any person that interferes with this right or deals with the decedent’s body improperly.

When making a decision in this type of case the court is not necessarily concerned with the injury or mishandling of the body, but rather how this injury or mishandling affects the living relatives of the deceased.

On the first of January in 2004, the plaintiff’s brother’s body was found in Queens County on Jamaica Avenue and 178th street by the New York City Fire Department EMS. He was taken and admitted to Mary Immaculate Hospital and passed away the following day. The hospital staff went through his clothing and made an inventory of all of the items in his possession at the time. A Suffolk County Personal Injury Lawyer said the only possessions were his clothing and a silver watch. Upon arrival at the hospital the decedent was not responsive and could not provide his name or any information. The nurse from the hospital notified the police station as the hospital had no information in regard to the patient.

Defendant Argument

The hospital then contacted the Medical Examiner’s Office according to procedure. The case was accepted by a medical investigator. The office of the Medical Examiner was notified that the next of kin of the deceased had not been contacted. The defendant states that at this point, by notifying the ME that they had not notified the next of kin, the responsibility was shifted to their office. Furthermore, the defendant states that the ME was responsible for having the body identified by a family member before burying it and they made no effort to do so in the two months that the body was in their possession. They did not contact the police station during this time either.

Plaintiff Argument

The plaintiff states and submits a fact sheet from the hospital that shows they did have information about the patient, including his name, address, date of birth and social security number. A Manhattan Personal Injury Lawyer said they did not make any effort to call information to obtain a phone number. The plaintiff also states that no one tried to mail a letter to the address of the decedent.

After reviewing all of the facts of the case the court denies the motion for summary judgment as it finds that the defendant did not make sufficient efforts to notify the next of kin in this case.

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