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World  

They buried wrong man

Relatives who thought they had buried their loved one only to find out he was alive 11 days after his funeral sued a California county Tuesday.

The suit filed by Frank Kerrigan's family accuses the Orange County Coroner's Office of negligence, concealment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.

County spokeswoman Carrie Braun said she can't comment on pending litigation, but that the sheriff's department is conducting an internal investigation.

"The department extends regrets to the family of Frank M. Kerrigan for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident," she said.

The mix-up began when a man was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley, about 40 miles (64 kilometres) southeast of Los Angeles.

Frank Kerrigan's father, who goes by the same name as his son, said the Orange County Coroner's Office told him the body was his son's.

When he asked whether he should identify the body, a woman at the coroner's office said — apparently incorrectly — that identification had been made through fingerprints. Another family member who talked to the coroner's office said a woman told her Kerrigan also had been found with his identification, according to the lawsuit.

Last May, Kerrigan's family buried a man. Eleven days later, Kerrigan turned up at a family friend's house. The friend called Kerrigan's family to tell them he was alive.

The man the Kerrigan family had buried turned out to be a Kansas native named John Dickens, who had to be exhumed before he was cremated and sent to his mother in Kansas.

Both Kerrigan and Dickens were homeless and mentally ill.

Kerrigan's family also alleges that the body found at the Verizon store was neither Kerrigan nor Dickens.



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