Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine Wins Justice for Families of Body Broker Victims
Ten of 21 plaintiffs who sued a now-shuttered Phoenix body donation company will be awarded $58,500,000.00.
The trial firm of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, PC secured $58.5 million in compensatory & punitive damages—one of the largest civil case results in Arizona history—for families who had donated bodies of their deceased loved ones to Biological Resource Center.
“Today, this jury sent a loud and clear message to body brokers across the nation that failing to treat donated bodies with dignity and respect, and selling off body parts for profit without full informed consent from the donors will not be tolerated in our society,” said co-lead trial lawyer David K. TeSelle, who along with Michael S. Burg and Holly B. Kammerer tried the four-week-long case in Phoenix, Arizona.
Biological Resource Center, which claimed to be a legitimate body donation center where the deceased could have their bodies donated to medical advancement, was raided by the FBI in 2014 for illegally selling the bodies it was donated on the black market.
After the bodies of the deceased were donated, they would be cut up and sold piecemeal to buyers all over the world—regardless of whether the deceased or family had made specific requests about how the body was to be used. These severed body parts were sold for thousands or even millions of dollars, all of which was pocketed by the body broker.
Biological Resource Center is not the only one of these black-market body brokers using a legitimate-seeming business to source its grisly body parts supply. In 2018, the FBI also raided Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado, which had been running a body brokerage business out of the same property.
Instead of returning the cremated remains of loved ones to the grieving families, according to multiple reports, Sunset Mesa’s owners would keep the corpses and give families back powdered concrete or other false ashes as the deceased’s “cremains.” Burg Simpson filed in February 2019 to represent over fifty claimants against the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home.
Whole-body donation, when done right and by businesses who follow the rules, is a valuable and wonderful thing. But when done wrong, when it’s the product of deceit and greed, we as a society need to stand up and fight back. We are extremely grateful that this jury took a stand and said no more.” said David TeSelle, a Shareholder of Burg Simpson, and one of the lead trial lawyers for the Plaintiffs.
“This is what we do. We give a voice to those that otherwise would have to suffer in silence,” said Michael Burg, founder of Burg Simpson, “we fight for what is right and just no matter what it takes. It was these brave, wonderful clients who said they needed to make a statement. It wasn’t about the money. It was never about the money. They just didn’t want it to happen to anyone else. Any other family, ever again. And we never gave up. We never ever give up.”
For more information on this case’s verdict, the Sunset Mesa case, or Burg Simpson’s similar work, visit the firm’s website.