July 24, 2009
A man who was arrested for disturbing the peace in the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi died of apparent suicide while in police custody. His body was held at a local mortuary because the county did not have a morgue. After some efforts to locate and advise next-of-kin, the body was cremated. The relatives showed up and sued the county for violation of the provisions of a statute regarding notification obligations. The trial court found they had suffered damages and awarded a $20,000.00 judgment. The county appealed.
The Mississippi Supreme Court held that the statute does not create a private cause of action and reversed the judgment. A dissent would hold that the statutory notice requirement vests rights for the benefit of the relatives and establishes a cause of action on their behalf. (Mike Frisch)
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