Can You Sue Someone For Cannibalizing A Loved One's Dead Body

It's a gruesome thought for sure. For one reason or another, a person decides to munch on another human being. If that person's meal turns out to be your loved one's dead body, amidst your horror, you may be wondering if it's possible to sue the individual for eating your friend or family member's body. In America, you have the right to sue for anything, but whether or not you'll win depends on the circumstances.

Finding the Right Legal Theory

The immediate challenge you'll run into is finding the right legal theory to sue under. Strangely enough, there are no laws against cannibalism in the U.S., so you would have to find other ways to hold the person liable for the damages and losses associated with what the person did to your loved one's corpse.

If the individual was responsible for the person's death, one way you could collect damages is to file a wrongful death lawsuit against him or her. To prevail in this type of case, you would have to show your loved one died because of the liable party's negligence or willful actions.

For instance, a man in Germany was arrested for the murder and consumption of a young man who had answered a Craigslist ad the cannibal had placed looking for a victim. While it appears the young man tried to commit suicide, the cannibal ultimately killed him using a knife. Since the cannibal murdered the victim, the young man's family would likely have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.

If your loved one died for other reasons unrelated to the defendant, you could sue for damages resulting from the destruction of the body and emotional distress. For instance, you could sue for the cost of repairing the body enough for burial and for the severe depression you suffered as a result of the defendant's conduct.

To prevail in an emotional distress case, though, you must show the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous and that the behavior resulted in you suffering some emotional harm. This can be challenging because you have to show that a reasonable person would consider the person's conduct extreme and outrageous and that may not always be possible.

For instance, a family is currently suing a man they claim ate their loved one while the two men were lost at sea. The accused man denies he cannibalized his friend. Regardless of whether the accusation is true or not, the jury may feel the man was justified in eating the corpse to stay alive since he had been lost at sea for 15 months.

Asking for Damages

Another challenge associated with this type of case is winning adequate damages to justify the lawsuit. Again, the defendant's actions will play a big part in the amount of money you'll be awarded. If the person caused your loved one's death, you may be compensated for

  • Funeral costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of parental guidance or companionship
  • Punitive damage related to malicious wrongdoing

On the other hand, if the person didn't have anything to do with the person's death and simply ate the individual's body, you may only be awarded the costs associated with the damage the person did to the corpse. In emotional distress cases, you are typically only awarded moneys for psychological injuries that are quantifiable (e.g. diagnosis of chronic depression). If your affliction couldn't be or wasn't treated by a professional, you may not receive any money for it.

For more information about these issues or guidance on presenting the best case in court, contact a personal injury attorney.