Family members who believed they buried their relative—only to later discover he was still alive and the body was misidentified by the Orange County Coroner—were awarded $1.5 million April 19 after a jury found the coroner negligent by misidentifying a deceased body.
Following a three-week trial, jurors awarded the father, Frank Kerrigan, 86, $1.1 million and his daughter, Carole Meikle, 60, $400,000.
The family said that in 2017, Kerrigan received a dreaded call for any parent from the coroner: that said his son, Frankie Kerrigan, had been found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley, according to Kerrigan family lawyer James DeSimone.
Just two days prior, the Kerrigan family said they had attempted to get Frankie, who battled schizophrenia and was homeless, into supportive housing and medical care.
The father never went to identify the body as the coroner’s office assured him it was unnecessary as his son’s body had been positively identified via state ID and fingerprints, DeSimone said.
But less than two weeks later, the elder Kerrigan was told by a close family friend, who had been a pallbearer at Frankie’s funeral that he had shown up at his doorstep.
Soon after, the family learned they had buried the body of John D. Dickens, a 54-year-old army veteran from Kansas, who was also homeless.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the Coroner’s office, declined to comment on the jury’s decision.