Does this Massachusetts Court Think Mothers Feel Pain of Loss of Children More than Fathers Do?

Boston, MA–Shared parenting activist Laura Chidester sent me this sad Boston Globe story about a grieving couple. Both mother and father suffered an equal loss, but the mother was awarded much more in damages. Laura writes:

“The article doesn’t explain why the mother was awarded so much more, but I bet we can guess.”

Perhaps there’s a logical reason why the mother was awarded over three times what the father was awarded–the article explains it a little, but not much. But one can’t help but suspect that the jury may believe that a mother feels the loss of her children more than a father does.

Jury faults mortuary for losing remains
Awards couple $325,000 in suit over son’s missing body

Boston Globe, March 5, 2008

A Suffolk Superior Court jury awarded a Boston couple a total of $325,000 yesterday, ruling that they suffered emotional distress when a city funeral home lost and possibly cremated the remains of their stillborn son.

“We will always wonder where our son is,” Robert Benedict said in an interview after the verdict. “It will never bring peace.”

The civil verdict by the jury of eight women and six men came after a day and a half of deliberations. Superior Court Judge Paul K. Troy, speaking from the bench after the verdict, called the case a “tragedy” and “heartbreaking.”

“There are no winners,” he said.

Robert and Therese Bellissimo Benedict said they suffered needlessly because of a mistake by the J.S. Waterman & Sons funeral home in the North End, which is owned by Service Corporation International, a national chain based in Houston.

In an interview yesterday, the Benedicts noted that Service Corporation International trains employees through what the company calls Dignity University, an online program.

“Whoever was on staff when my son was there missed that entire semester at Dignity University,” Therese Benedict said. “In some ways, it is a direct correlation to depersonalizing what was once a family-owned business.”

The jury found that the funeral home was negligent and caused Robert Benedict emotional distress and awarded him $75,000. The jury awarded Therese Benedict $250,000 after concluding she was subjected to both negligent actions and intentional infliction of emotional harm.

Lisa Marshall, spokeswoman for Service Corporation International, said in a telephone interview that the company regrets the trouble that befell the Benedicts.

“This is not typical of the way our funeral homes operate,” she said. “It was a mistake, and we are very sorry about that.”

Read the full article here.

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