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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

JOHN M. GATELY AND PATTY SUE GATELY VS. HAMILTON MEMORIAL HOME, INC., D/B/A BRENNA-CELLINI FUNERAL HOME, AND MARIA E. BRENNA A-4458-13T2

JOHN M. GATELY AND PATTY SUE GATELY VS. HAMILTON MEMORIAL HOME, INC., D/B/A BRENNA-CELLINI FUNERAL HOME, AND MARIA E. BRENNA 
A-4458-13T2 
This appeal arises out of a no-cause jury verdict rejecting a father's claims that a funeral home wrongfully released the remains of his adult son for cremation without the father's authorization. The father contends that he told an individual employed by the home (known in the trade as an "intern") that he did not want his son to be cremated. He claims that the intern and funeral home ignored his protestations and instead improperly acceded to the contrary direction of the decedent's mother. 

The main and novel legal issue presented to us is whether the qualified immunity from civil liability granted to funeral directors under N.J.S.A. 45:7-95 and N.J.S.A. 45:27-22(d) extends to interns who are employed by funeral homes pursuant to regulations issued by the State Board of Mortuary Science. The immunity precludes liability unless the defendant had "reasonable notice" of untrue representations or a lack of authorization by the decedent's surviving next of kin. 
We conclude that the statutory immunity does extend to such interns. The trial judge consequently did not err in charging the elements of the immunity to the jury.