Family Suing O.C. Coroner Over Shocking Case of Mistaken Identity

On May 12, Frank Kerrigan held a funeral for his 57-year-old son after his dead body was discovered behind a Fountain Valley Verizon store.

“It was a beautiful ceremony,” he says.

There was just one problem: the man in the casket was someone else’s child.

As it turns out, Kerrigan’s son was still alive, struggling with a mental illness and living on the streets. Meanwhile, the family of John Dean Dickens, 54, had no idea their child had passed away and was now buried in the ground.

The deceased man was positively identified by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as Dickens last week. The Kerrigan family has now filed two legal complaints -- precursors to a lawsuit -- in the amount of $1 million each. They're seeking damages for emotional distress, as well as reimbursement for funeral costs. They spent $20,000 on the May burial.

The Sheriff’s Department says it has no idea how such an egregious error could have occurred. It’s investigating. But the results of the probe could take up to a year.



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