To avoid dismissal, Court issues 14-day reminder for families in cadaver lawsuit to file paperwork

Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 12:10 a.m.

The D.C. Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit earlier this month filed by three families against GW in September over “gross mismanagement” of their relatives’ remains that were donated to the medical school – a dismissal that is recorded in court filings but does not go into effect until 14 days after the filing.

The families did not file paperwork showing a proof of service to GW within 60 days, allowing the court to issue a dismissal for the case that will not immediately go into effect, according to D.C. court policy.

The D.C. Court gives the people filing lawsuits a 14-day opportunity to file the proof of service before the dismissal goes into effect. During this period, the court records the case as dismissed in docket records.

Cary Hansel, the lawyer representing the families, said the families intend to file the paperwork before the 14-day deadline. If the court accepts the filings, the recorded dismissal in docket records will be revoked.

“We plan to file an appropriate motion with the court within the relevant time period,” he said.

The three individuals – Eileen Kostaris, Alex Naar and Mary Louise Powell – filed the suit in September after each of them learned that the University could not return the bodies of their family members to them or that the University returned the wrong remains to them. They sued GW for multiple kinds of negligence, fraud and for the alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress.

D.C. Court rules stipulate that the person or people filing the lawsuit are required to show proof that the parties being sued were notified of the lawsuit if they did not respond to the court’s notification. The person filing a case can request to extend the deadline to prove that the person or organization being sued received notice, D.C. Superior Court policy states.

When the court does not receive either a response from the person being sued or proof that they were notified of the lawsuit, the court can dismiss the suit without prejudice, meaning that the families can file the same lawsuit again.

Officials admitted in February that staff members in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences had mismanaged more than 50 bodies that were donated to the University for science. The University closed the body donor program after revealing the body mix-up.

This post was updated to reflect the following changes:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported in two references that a D.C. judge dismissed the case. The court clerk files the dismissals. The post was also updated to include comments from Cary Hansel, the lawyer representing the families.

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