A Staten Island family of a deceased teen has been awarded $1 million by a jury because of a morgue mess-up involving the teen's brain and other organ parts being kept for testing. In 2005, 17-year-old Jesse Shipley died in a car crash; though his family buried him, his brain was kept by the Medical Examiner and discovered in a jar two months later by his classmates on a school trip to the mortuary. "They were outraged that the medical examiner would take organs without telling a family member and hold them for a long time," the Shipleys' lawyer Anthony L. Galante told SILive, explaining the jury's decision.
The family conducted a second burial after discovering the morgue's mistake; they buried jars containing his brain and other tissue samples in a small casket on top of the one containing his body. Despite the verdict, the city is planning on appealing, and the family will likely not see the money anytime soon.
Jesse and his sister, Shannon, then 14, were riding in a Mercedes-Benz that collided with an SUV in January 2005. The impact crushed the back seat where Jesse was sitting; Shannon, the front-seat passenger, suffered minor physical injuries. The medical examiner ended up keeping the brain and other parts for study, despite not informing the family. Andre Shipley said, "I physically had [his brain] when it was returned to us from the morgue. It's my son. It's part of my son. It's my flesh. It's very upsetting, but what can I have done?"