In Adventist Healthcare Inc. v. Mattingly, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (COSA) was asked to consider whether a mother’s decision to cremate her son’s remains amounted to the destruction of evidence in a subsequent lawsuit for medical malpractice. The COSA ruled that having remains cremated does not constitute spoliation of evidence in a subsequent malpractice case. The Court held that family members have no duty to preserve evidence from the body or allow potential malpractice defendants to examine the body independently.
Facts of Adventist Healthcare Inc. v. Mattingly
The decedent (Mattingly) underwent surgery to reverse a colostomy at Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland. Five days after the surgery, Mr. Mattingly died while still in the hospital. Mattingly’s mother was with him at the hospital when he died, and she immediately suspected that the doctors and staff had been negligent. She wanted an autopsy performed to learn the cause of her son’s death, but she didn’t trust anyone at the hospital to give her an honest opinion.