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Judge dismisses Harvard body parts theft case

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A state judge ruled Monday that Harvard was “not vicariously liable” for the actions of a former morgue director accused of stealing and selling body parts.

FILE – Pedestrians walk toward Harvard Medical School, August 18, 2022.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, file

A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Monday dismissed all claims against Harvard University over the alleged theft of human remains from the medical school’s morgue, a grisly affair that made international headlines and subjected scrutiny of the university’s anatomical donations program.

Harvard was facing a dozen lawsuits from 47 people whose relatives had donated their bodies to the school for education and research — individuals who were “understandably horrified” to learn that the remains of their loved ones may have been mistreated and desecrated, Judge Kenneth W. Salinger acknowledged. in his decision.

Many of the lawsuits also name former Harvard Medical School morgue director Cedric Lodge, a New Hampshire man accused of stealing and selling dissected body parts such as brains, skin and bones. Lodge was federally indicted alongside several others last June.

The families’ lawsuits accused Harvard of negligence in connection with Lodge’s alleged actions, but Salinger determined that the claims did not void Harvard’s immunity under the state’s Uniform Anatomical Donation Act, which protects anyone who obeys the law or attempts to do so in good faith.

“Although the appalling things that Lodge allegedly did are not protected by this immunity statute, the allegations in the complaints make clear that Harvard… (is) not vicariously liable for Lodge’s actions.” , wrote the judge.

Families will be able to appeal the dismissal immediately, without waiting for separate claims against Lodge to be resolved, Salinger noted.

“It may seem unfair that Harvard can absolve itself of liability in this matter even though, as the plaintiffs allege, it was negligent in its oversight of the HMS morgue and therefore let Lodge off the hook stealing body parts for years,” he admitted. “But the Court must follow the clear instructions of the UAGA immunity provision.”

Morgan & Morgan attorney Kathryn Barnett, an attorney for the plaintiffs, has already vowed to appeal the dismissal.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s decision,” Barnett said in a statement. “These families have had to repeatedly relive the trauma of losing their loved ones, and we firmly believe they deserve a day in court.” We will appeal this decision and continue to fight for justice for them. »

Boston

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