On the way to cremation at Liberty Grove Cemetery, dead bodies were illegally dissected so that tissue, organs and bones could be removed from them for commercial sale. The gruesome scheme was discovered and the perpetrators brought to justice. The owners of Liberty Grove contended that they received the remains in closed containers and were unaware of any tampering; in any event, they were not prosecuted. Families of the deceased brought claims against the cemetery for damage to human remains and mental anguish, some of which were dismissed. The cemetery owners incurred defence costs, which they sought to recover from their insurers.
Denial of the cemetery’s claim for defence and indemnification was upheld. Discovery of some of the claims for mental anguish fell outside the policy period. Other claims, while falling within the period of coverage, were excluded by an ‘improper handling’ clause: Memorial Properties LLC v Zurich Insurance Co (NJ SCAD, 28 June 2012). The exclusion clause clearly applied to the cemetery’s allegedly negligent handling or disposal of human remains in its care and custody, and the insurers had no duty to defend or indemnify.