Law School Case Brief
Wilson v. Hous. Funeral Home - 42 Cal. App. 4th 1124, 50 Cal. Rptr. 2d 169 (1996)
A contract whereby a mortician agrees to prepare a body for burial is one in which it is reasonably foreseeable that breach may cause mental anguish to the decedent's bereaved relations. One who prepares a human body for burial and conducts a funeral usually deals with the living in their most difficult and delicate moments. So true is this that the chief asset of a mortician and the most conspicuous element of his advertisement is his consideration for the afflicted. A decent respect for their feelings is implied in every contract for his services.
Plaintiffs, who were the deceased's family members, entered into an agreement with defendant funeral home. On the day of the funeral, defendant's limousine driver refused to take plaintiffs to the burial site, until they went to a bank and gave defendant director a check. At the bank, defendant director caused a scene, until he was paid. Plaintiffs initiated an action against defendants for breach of contract, the covenant of good faith, and fiduciary duty. The trial court dismissed plaintiffs' action for failing to state a claim. Plaintiffs appealed.
Did the plaintiffs fail to state a claim when the circumstances revealed that the defendant failed to give a dignified burial to plaintiffs’ deceased family members?
The appellate court reversed the judgment of dismissal, holding that the trial court erred in sustaining defendants' demurrer as to the cause of action for breach of contract. The appellate court held that every contract for funeral services contained an implied covenant to provide an appropriate and dignified burial service, and the complaint alleged sufficient facts to constitute a breach of that covenant.
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