Three High Court actions brought over the delivery of the wrong man’s body from a Spanish island to Co Tipperary have been settled.
Siblings Jackie Costello, Neville Curley and Elizabeth Ann Curley-Poppe settled their cases against a Spanish funeral home and a UK repatriation service, while their claims against a Templemore undertaker were struck out on terms agreed between the parties, the court was told on Wednesday.
Liability was fully denied.
Ms Costello and Mr Curley, of Templemore, and Ms Curley-Poppe, who lives in Michigan in the US, had claimed they suffered psychiatric injuries due to a French man’s remains being wrongly delivered from Lanzarote to Grey’s Funeral Home in Templemore in a coffin bearing their father’s name.
Michael Curley, a widower from Templemore, died suddenly, aged 83, of a heart attack while on holiday in February 2016, the court heard.
Ms Costello previously told the court of her shock at seeing a body that “bore no resemblance whatsoever” to her father’s.
The deceased had “very sallow” skin and the remnants of “jet black” hair, with cuts on his face from shards of glass, she said. This man had undergone a post-mortem, while Ms Costello believed their father had not.
The Tipperary undertaker assured them this was the late Mr Curley and the paperwork that arrived with the body proved that Ms Costello said.
They were later asked to return to the funeral home, and a tag on the body identified this was a French citizen, the court heard.
The actions alleged their psychological injuries were caused by the negligence and breach of contract by funeral service Memora Servicios Funerarios Internacionales SL, Surrey-based repatriators Rowland Brothers International Limited, and Grey’s Funeral Home.
Letter of apology
On Wednesday, the siblings’ barrister Dermot Cahill SC, appearing with David Kennedy SC, told the court the actions have been compromised. He asked the court to note that a February 2016 letter of apology from the Spanish funeral service that was read out by Mr Kennedy in court on Tuesday had been received before the instituting of the legal cases.
Mr Justice Tony O’Connor made the orders sought.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers told the court on Tuesday that the Templemore undertaker had warned Neville Curley that his father did “not look well” and foreign embalming services were not as good as Irish ones.
Micheál Ó Scanaill SC, with Bonnie Hickey BL, for the Spanish funeral service and the repatriation firm, said the error was recognised and rectified, enabling the late Mr Curley’s funeral to go ahead as scheduled.
His clients denied they were liable for the alleged injuries, and he raised objections to their having issued three separate sets of proceedings in the High Court, which hears personal injuries cases seeking awards of €60,000 and above.
Jeremy Maher SC, with Eamon Marray BL, for Grey’s Funeral Home, said his client, Grey’s Funeral Home, had “no hand, act or part in what went on in Lanzarote”.
It was “entirely reasonable” for him to believe the body that arrived in Ireland was the plaintiffs’ father considering a label on the coffin identified this was the late Mr Curley and all accompanying paperwork said the same. The funeral director was also aware embalming processes in Spain were different from Ireland, Counsel said.
Written by High Court reporters.