The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. At the threshold, a claim under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for an unconstitutional deprivation of property must show (1) a deprivation (2) of property (3) under color of state law. If these elements are met, the question becomes whether the state afforded constitutionally adequate process for the deprivation.
Plaintiff parents, whose deceased children's corneas were removed by the Los Angeles County Coroner's office without notice or consent, brought a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action alleging a taking of their property without due process of law. The complaint was dismissed by the district court for a failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Upon review, the court of appeals reversed and remanded.
Were plaintiffs' denied due process of law under the when their childrens' corneas were taken without their consent?
The longstanding recognition in the law of California, paralleled by national common law, that next of kin have the exclusive right to possess the bodies of their deceased family members created a property interest, the deprivation of which must be accorded due process of law under U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Accordingly the court of appeals held that the parents were not required to exhaust postdeprivation procedures prior to bringing their suit and properly stated a claim under § 1983.