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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by Families Over Harvard Medical School Morgue Theft

A judge ruled to dismiss a class action lawsuit against Harvard filed by families affected by the mishandling of human remains at Harvard Medical School.
A judge ruled to dismiss a class action lawsuit against Harvard filed by families affected by the mishandling of human remains at Harvard Medical School. By Jonathan G. Yuan
By Veronica H. Paulus and Akshaya Ravi, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated February 13, 2024 at 12:11 a.m.

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge dismissed a class action lawsuit on Monday filed by families affected by the mishandling of human remains at Harvard Medical School.

Cedric Lodge, the former morgue manager at the HMS Anatomical Gift Program, was charged by federal prosecutors last summer with stealing and transporting human remains.

Judge Kenneth W. Salinger dismissed the claims against Harvard and Anatomical Gift Program managers Mark F. Cicchetti and Tracey Fay, citing their immunity under Massachusetts’ Universal Anatomical Gift Act.

Salinger wrote that the defendants “made a good faith attempt to comply with the requirements of the UAGA.”

Last month, Harvard sought dismissal under the UAGA for several lawsuits filed following Lodge’s indictment.

“The allegations in the complaints make clear that Harvard, Cicchetti, and Fay are not vicariously liable for Lodge’s actions — which means that the allegations about what Lodge did cannot defeat the Harvard Defendants’ qualified immunity,” Salinger wrote.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment. A spokesperson for HMS did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

In the decision, Salinger wrote that the complaints do not allege “that any of the Harvard Defendants knew what Lodge was doing, or that any of the Harvard Defendants gave Lodge permission to do so.”

“It may not seem fair that Harvard can avoid responsibility and liability in this case,” Salinger wrote. “But the Court must follow the clear command of the UAGA immunity provision.”

The court order states that plaintiffs will not need to wait for their separate claims to be resolved before they can appeal the decision.

Jeffrey Catalano, a lawyer representing the families, wrote in a statement on Monday that Keches Law Group is “assessing all options including our clients’ rights to appeal this decision.”

“Our clients are extremely disappointed by the decision to dismiss all of their claims against Harvard and its employees for the egregious wrongs done to the bodies of so many loved ones for so long in Harvard Medical School’s morgue,” Catalano added.

—Staff writer Veronica H. Paulus can be reached at veronica.paulus@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @VeronicaHPaulus.

—Staff writer Akshaya Ravi can be reached at akshaya.ravi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @akshayaravi22.

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