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FRANCES C. HACKETT v. UNITED AIRLINES AND WILLIAM R. MAY FUNERAL HOME (07/13/87)

filed: July 13, 1987.

FRANCES C. HACKETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CATHERINE A. COOK, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED AIRLINES AND WILLIAM R. MAY FUNERAL HOME, INC.



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County, Civil Division, at No. 85-16858.

COUNSEL

Joseph L. Foley, Glenside, for appellant.

Jonathan S. Ziss, Philadelphia, for United Airlines, appellee.

William B. Brooks, Norristown, for William F. May, appellee.

Cavanaugh, Brosky and Tamilia, JJ. Cavanaugh, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Brosky

[ 364 Pa. Super. Page 613]

This is an appeal from an order sustaining preliminary objections, in the nature of a demurrer, to appellant's complaint. Appellant's sole contention on appeal is that the trial court misread and misapplied Pennsylvania law when it found that appellant's complaint failed to state a cause of action. Upon review of the relevant pleadings and the arguments of counsel, we now affirm.

Appellant is Frances C. Hackett, who brought suit in Montgomery County in her individual capacity and in her

[ 364 Pa. Super. Page 614]

    representative capacity as the daughter of Catherine A. Cook, whose remains are the subject matter of this litigation. Appellant retained the services of appellee William R. May Funeral Home, Inc., to arrange shipment of her mother's remains to a chapel in San Francisco, California, for services and burial. Appellee May assured appellant that a bronze casket, in lieu of a shipping crate, would provide adequate protection for the body during transport, and, as a result, appellant purchased a bronze casket.

The shipment was handled by appellee United Airlines. Upon arrival of the casket in California, it was discovered that the casket had sustained numerous dents during the trip, severely damaging both the casket and the body of appellant's mother. Appellant is alleged to have suffered great mental anguish, humiliation, and embarrassment at the funeral, as the damaged condition of the casket was evident during the services. Appellant is further alleged to have required medical treatment for an emotional state brought about by these events, which it is contended will continue for an indefinite period of time.

Appellant filed suit against appellees, claiming that their careless preparation of her mother's body for shipment, and mishandling of the casket during shipment, inflicted emotional distress upon appellant, entitling her to recover damages in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00). Both appellees filed preliminary objections, contending that appellant's complaint stated a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress, and that such actions are not recognized in Pennsylvania under the circumstances set forth in the complaint. The trial court sustained the preliminary objections of both appellees, and dismissed the complaint. This timely appeal followed.

At the outset, prior to our analysis of the legal issues presented, we are compelled to note that the decision we reach today has been a difficult and disturbing decision to make. We cannot help but express our considerable sympathy for the sufferings of appellant. She ...


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