Coleman v. Sopher
In Coleman v. Sopher, 201 W.Va. 588, 499 S.E.2d 592 (1997), Dr. Sopher had performed the autopsy at the family's request to determine whether occupational pneumoconiosis had contributed to the decedent's death.
Upon receiving a denial of occupational pneumoconiosis survivors' benefits from the Workers' Compensation Division, the family had the body exhumed for a second autopsy.
At that point, the family allegedly discovered that the decedent's heart had been removed during the first autopsy. The family filed suit alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, and outrageous conduct.
Upon appeal, the Court did not find "the award of $ 135,000.00 in compensatory damages for the emotional suffering of three separate individuals the decedent's family to be monstrous, enormous, at first blush beyond all measure, unreasonable or outrageous." Coleman, 201 W.Va. at 607, 499 S.E.2d at 611.
Instead, the Court found that Dr. Sopher's alleged attempt to conceal the removal of the decedent's heart amounted to "willful, reckless indifference and disregard of the Colemans' rights." Id., 201 W.Va. at 603, 499 S.E.2d 607.