Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Damages awarded by the trial court may be increased when there is a finding that (1) the award is minimal; and (2) there are aggravating circumstances and/or dire consequences to the injured party. Otherwise, the award is within the discretion of the trial judge.
Plaintiff Marguerite Lawson’s decedent husband Silas Robinson was buried by defendant cemetery Providence Mausoleum in the wrong grave. The cemetery realized its mistake the next morning and, without consulting Lawson, exhumed the casket to reinter it in Lawson’s plot. Meanwhile Lawson, who had "noticed" at the original interment that the grave was not her own plot, returned for an explanation and learned of the error and of the casket's having already been exhumed for reinterment. Lawson saw the casket, in the condition one must expect from interment in New Orleans: wet and muddied, with its top cracked from the weight of the earth and part of its cloth covering loosened by moisture and movement. Lawson waited almost an hour while her own plot was prepared and reinterment was accomplished. She thus filed an action for damages. The trial court awarded her damages of $100. Lawson appealed, seeking an increase in the quantum of damages.
Should the damages awarded be increased?
Plaintiff was, most naturally, "shocked" and upset at the distressing and inexplicable failure by defendant to perform its contractual obligation to prepare the correct site for her husband's burial, and the less-than-ideal remedying of the error. (As a minimum, the widow should have been informed beforehand of the discovery of the error and of the proposal to remedy it. Because both graves were unused, she might have preferred to swap plots, if the other owner would consent.) But plaintiff had no medical expenses and no loss of earnings as a result of her shock. Already heavy-burdened by the loss of her husband, she appears to have borne the shock of his necessary disinterment and reburial admirably well. While the award of $ 100 may be minimal but, because there were no aggravating circumstances and no dire consequences to the widow, we conclude that the award is within the trial judge's "much discretion.”