WILL HARROD, INDIVIDUALLY AND WILL HARROD, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS FRANKLIN COUNTY CORONER APPELLANT
KATHLEEN CANEY APPELLEE
FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE PHILLIP J. SHEPHERD,
JUDGE ACTION NO. 15-CI-00621
FOR APPELLANT: D. Barry Stilz Robert C. “Coley”
Stilz, III Lexington, Kentucky Paul (Skip) Gaines Frankfort,
FOR APPELLEE: Joshua S. Harp Frankfort, Kentucky.
BEFORE: JOHNSON, JONES AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
Caney's wife, Kathleen Caney, filed a complaint against
Will Harrod, individually and in his official capacity as
Franklin County Coroner, based on his seizure of and
subsequent conduct concerning Robert's body after Robert
died. Kathleen alleged unlawful invasion of the right of
sepulture, and mishandling and mutilation of a corpse;
tortious interference with contract; and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Harrod appeals from the
Franklin Circuit Court's opinion and order denying his
motion to dismiss or for summary judgment based on absolute
immunity and qualified immunity.
is the Franklin County Coroner and the owner, operator and
funeral director of Harrod Brothers, a funeral home. As
coroner, he conducts post-mortem examinations in
was previously married to Mary Ann, who predeceased him in
1990. They had three children.
married Kathleen in 1991. On September 11, 2011, Robert
signed a durable power of attorney naming Kathleen as his
attorney-in-fact and this document was later recorded with
the Franklin County Clerk.
2013, Robert was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and dementia.
In 2014, Robert was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He
remained in his home with hospice care provided by Hospice of
2014, pursuant to her authority as attorney-in-fact, Kathleen
signed a preneed cremation authorization form contract with
Legacy Crematory, LLC for the future cremation of Robert. She
also signed a contract for Robert's funeral and related
services with Clark Funeral Homes, Inc.
and Mary Ann's adult daughter, Jerri Bradshaw, learned
that Kathleen planned to have Robert cremated when he died.
Jerri contacted Barry Norfleet, who worked for Farmers Bank
and Trust Company, the trustee of Robert's trust, for
help as she believed such disposition was contrary to
Robert's expressed wishes.
apparently representing himself as Robert's trustee, and
Jerri then sought help from Harrod. They told Harrod that the
documents Kathleen had signed regarding the disposition of
Robert's remains did not reflect Robert's wishes and
showed him a handwritten undated note Robert signed which
stated: "I'm to be buried above Mary Ann. Harrod
Brothers Funeral Home. Jerri, with help from Rob & Mike
to decide the plans for my funeral." It is undisputed
that this note did not meet the legal requirements to be a
will or codicil.
response, Harrod emailed Hospice of the Bluegrass about
Robert, stating "I do not permit the release of his
bodily remains to any funeral facilities for transport for
cremation" and instructed that he be contacted after
Robert died so that his office could take possession of the
body. Kathleen was not informed about this instruction.
February 6, 2015, Robert died at home. It is undisputed that
he died of natural causes and his death was not a
one hour of Robert's death, Harrod, accompanied by a
deputy coroner and a deputy sheriff took possession of
Robert's body without Kathleen's permission.
retained an attorney who demanded the return of Robert's
body so that she could carry out her prearranged cremation
and burial plans. Harrod refused to release Robert's body
until he received direction from a court or written
documentation of an agreement between Kathleen and Jerri. In
the meantime, he embalmed Robert's body without
Kathleen's knowledge or permission, claiming this was
necessary to preserve the body.
their attorneys, on February 9, 2015, Kathleen and Jerri
reached an agreement as to the disposition of Robert's
body. They each submitted a written ...