The Military Times reported on the trial against Stephen Gore, owner of the Biological Resource Center of Arizona, ended with jurors finding in favor of 10 of 21 plaintiffs, awarding $8 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages. A civil jury has awarded $58 million this week to 10 people who alleged a body donation facility mishandled the donated remains of their relatives and deceived them about how the body parts would be used.
Gore’s business was accused of fraud by claiming the donated bodies would be used for medical research, when it knew some of the remains would be sold for military testing, such as crashes and explosions. A woman whose son’s remains were sold for military testing was awarded $6.5 million. The Army was mislead by the company to believe that the donors had consented to the bodies’ use in blast tests.
Each plaintiff acknowledged ahead of the verdict that Gore wasn’t likely to be able to pay a large award. They said they brought the case to trial to hold Gore and his business accountable.
Gore’s business was raided in January 2014 by FBI employees wearing hazardous-material suits and breathing through respirators. A retired FBI agent testified that body parts were piled on top of each other and had no identification.
He said he saw one torso that had its head removed and a smaller head sewn on, comparing the discovery to a character from Frankenstein. The retired agent also said the horrific discoveries during the raid led some FBI employees to undergo counseling.
Gore pleaded guilty in October 2015 to a felony charge for his role in mishandling the donated parts.
Though Gore denied the allegations in the lawsuit, he acknowledged when pleading guilty to illegally conducting an enterprise that his firm provided vendors with human tissue that was contaminated and used the donations counter to the wishes of the donors.
Michael Burg, an attorney representing donor families, said the industry will learn from the verdict that there are consequences for deceptive practices. “It sends a message to others that don’t want to be honest or trick people into doing this,” Burg said.