Hillsboro woman joins lawsuit against body-donation company
A Hillsboro woman has joined a civil class-action lawsuit against a Phoenix, Ariz., company after donating her mother's body to science there more than two years ago.
Angelina Merrill and dozens of others are listed as plaintiffs in the Maricopa County case, which was filed Dec. 7, 2015.
Merrill's mother, Jacquelyn Rae Merrill, died of lung and breast cancer in 2013.
Angelina Merrill and multiple families across the U.S. are suing Biological Resource Center Inc. in Arizona Superior Court, saying it sold body parts for profit and misrepresented how those body parts were going to be used.
According to a story reported by Portland's KGW TV on Nov. 13, Merrill said that while she donated her mother's body to Biological Resource Center of Phoenix as a way to aid research into a cure for cancer after she died, what actually took place wasn't what she expected.
She told KGW the company took her mother's body and later sent back her ashes. But in January 2014, the FBI raided the facility, and investigators found her mother's body inside.
Brian Kabateck, the attorney representing Merrill and other families, told KGW that body parts can be used for everything from medical research to military explosive testing to canine training.
In May 2016, Merrill started a Gofundme.com page to raise $1,895 to bring her mother's remains home from Arizona. The effort raised $490. An update on the page nine months ago said the following:
"The FBI has finally released my mother's remains today after three years of investigations. We are still working with lawyers on the case against the people who played a part in the black market sale of my mother [and] so many others."
A press release from Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C., based in Denver, Colo., and Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP, based in Los Angeles, Calif., said the civil suit alleges that since 2007, "decedents and their families had been fraudulently induced" by the defendants to donate bodily remains based on representations that the remains would be used solely for medical or scientific research.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages on behalf of the donors' families and contains 11 counts against the defendants, including intentional infliction of emotional distress; mishandling of bodies and bodily remains; fraud; civil conspiracy; breach of contract; racketeering; and aiding and abetting, among others.
The lawsuit also includes a punitive damages claim. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Jan. 12, 2018.
Filing of the civil suit followed a criminal investigation initiated by the FBI and state authorities.
Stephen Gore, a defendant in the lawsuit and the owner of Biological Resource Center in Arizona, pleaded guilty to a Class C felony in connection with the criminal investigation.