Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 45 Cal. 4th 1244, 203 P.3d 1127, 91 Cal. Rptr. 3d 532

Conroy v. Regents Univ. of Cal.

Filed 4/6/09

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

EVELYN CONROY,
Plaintiff and Appellant,
S153002
v.
Ct.App.
4/3
G035537
THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA,
Orange
County
Defendant and Respondent.
Super. Ct. No. 00CC01942

The Willed Body Program at the University of California at Irvine accepts
human cadavers for scientific and anatomical studies. A donation agreement is the
document by which an individual wills his or her own body, or the body of a
deceased loved one, to the Willed Body Program. Prior to his death, plaintiff’s
husband, James Conroy, executed a donation agreement with the Willed Body
Program for the donation of his body. Following his death on January 25, 1999,
plaintiff Evelyn Conroy, his wife of more than 40 years, arranged for delivery of
his body to the University of California at Irvine (UCI) in an unembalmed and
unautopsied state, as specified in the donation agreement.
Some months later, plaintiff read newspaper reports of irregularities in the
UCI Willed Body Program. These reports alleged that the program had failed to
maintain adequate records of the human cadavers donated for teaching and
research and that donated bodies could not be located. Plaintiff contacted UCI to
inquire about her husband’s body. She was informed that there were no records of
1


what had happened to her husband’s body after it was brought to the UCI medical
school and that the body’s whereabouts were unknown. Plaintiff suffered
emotional distress over these revelations and over UCI’s failure to notify her, as
had been promised by Chris Brown, the director of the Willed Body Program at
the time her husband executed the donation agreement, about a ceremony at sea to
scatter her husband’s ashes.
In 2000, plaintiff instituted this action against defendant Regents of the
University of California (the Regents) and others. The complaint alleged, inter
alia, causes of action for negligence, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The
trial court granted the Regents’ motion for summary judgment on these claims,
and the Court of Appeal affirmed. We affirm.
BACKGROUND
On June 30, 1996, plaintiff Evelyn Conroy and her husband, James Conroy,
each executed separate agreements to donate their bodies to the UCI Willed Body
Program. James Conroy’s agreement provided: “I here state that it is my wish to
donate my body to the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, College of
Medicine, University of California, Irvine (UCI), immediately following my
death, for teaching purposes, scientific research, or such purposes as the said
University or its authorized representative shall in their sole discretion deem
advisable. My body, when delivered to UCI, will be unembalmed and in good
condition. It is further understood and agreed that final disposition of my body by
UCI shall be in accordance with the State Code.”
James Conroy died on January 25, 1999. After plaintiff notified their
children of his passing, someone called UCI to arrange for delivery of the body.
Sometime in September 1999, plaintiff read an article in the Orange County
Register describing misconduct at the UCI Willed Body Program and telephoned
UCI to inquire about her husband’s body. About a month later, Dr. Peter
2
Lawrence, the interim director of the Willed Body Program, returned her call. Dr.
Lawrence stated that Chris Brown, the prior director, had failed to keep proper
records and that UCI did not know what happened to her husband’s body after it
was picked up. Dr. Lawrence subsequently sent a letter confirming that her
husband’s body had been delivered to UCI but added that there was no further
record of what happened to it.
Plaintiff then instituted this action against various parties, including the
Regents, which administer the 10-campus University of California system, and
asserted claims for breach of implied contract, negligence, negligent
misrepresentation, breach of special duty, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, and fraud and intentional deceit. In the complaint, plaintiff alleged that
she, as the holder of the statutory right to control the disposition of her husband’s
body, had entrusted her husband’s body to defendant under the Willed Body
Program for purposes of teaching and research; that she was to receive her
husband’s remains “upon completion of the educational and research purposes”
for which the donation was made; that plaintiff discovered in the fall of 1999 that
defendant was using cadavers donated under the Willed Body Program for
unauthorized purposes, including private for-profit tutoring classes and the
transport and dismembering of bodies for profit; that defendant had failed to
maintain records to ensure that the cadavers were used only for authorized
purposes and to enable return of the remains to the appropriate family members;
and that her husband’s body “was misused in that the body was not used for
medical research by the university.” Plaintiff further alleged that she had suffered
injuries to her health as well as emotional distress as a result of defendant’s
misconduct and sought compensatory and punitive damages.
The trial court sustained demurrers to the causes of action for breach of
implied contract, breach of special duty, and intentional infliction of emotional
3
distress. The Regents then moved for summary judgment on the remaining causes
of action. In opposing the motion, plaintiff submitted a declaration recounting a
telephone conversation she had had with Chris Brown, who was then the director
of the Willed Body Program, before her husband executed the agreement to donate
his body. Brown had told plaintiff that her husband’s body would be cremated
and the ashes scattered at sea after UCI had completed its research, that the family
would be notified “so that they could take an active part in the ceremony scattering
the ashes at sea,” and that she and her husband’s physician would be advised of
the medical findings pertaining to her husband’s body. But after reading about
misconduct at the Willed Body Program in an article published in the Orange
County Register following the donation of her husband’s body, plaintiff contacted
Dr. Lawrence, the program’s interim director, and learned that although her
husband’s body had been brought to the medical school, its subsequent
whereabouts were unknown.
Plaintiff also submitted evidence that Brown had owned or colluded with
several companies that profited from questionable dealings involving cadavers
donated to the Willed Body Program. For example, Brown and Jeffrey Frazier
were partners in a company, Replica, Inc., which offered a gross anatomy class
called “Medbound” to students interested in attending medical school. The class
was held on UCI premises without authorization from UCI, using cadavers from
the Willed Body Program, and photographs of cadavers from the program were
placed in Replica’s storefront window. Plaintiff contended that these facts had put
the Regents on notice of problems with the Willed Body Program prior to her
husband’s death that should have been, but were not, corrected.
In addition, plaintiff submitted evidence that Brown had arranged for the
removal of seven cervical spines from cadavers, which he and Frazier then sold
via another company, University Health Services, to a doctor conducting research
4
at an Arizona hospital in June 1999. A subsequent audit of the Willed Body
Program ordered by the dean of the UCI medical school revealed that there were
no records concerning the final disposition of 320 of the 441 bodies donated
between January 1, 1995, and August 11, 1999.
The trial court granted the Regents’ motion for summary judgment. The
Court of Appeal affirmed in a published opinion.
DISCUSSION
“Because this case comes before us after the trial court granted a motion for
summary judgment, we take the facts from the record that was before the trial
court when it ruled on that motion. [Citation.] ‘ “We review the trial court’s
decision de novo, considering all the evidence set forth in the moving and
opposing papers except that to which objections were made and sustained.” ’
[Citation.] We liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing
summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that
party.” (Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA, Inc. (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1028, 1037.)
“A trial court properly grants summary judgment where no triable issue of
material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” (Merrill v. Navegar, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 465, 476.) The materiality of a
disputed fact is measured by the pleadings (Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (1994)
7 Cal.4th 1238, 1252; 6 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Proceedings
Without Trial, § 212, p. 650), which “set the boundaries of the issues to be
resolved at summary judgment.” (Oakland Raiders v. National Football League
(2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 621, 648; see generally Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping
Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 673 [“pleadings serve as the outer measure of
materiality in a summary judgment proceeding”].) We find the Court of Appeal
did not err.
5
A. The Cause of Action for Negligence
In order to establish liability on a negligence theory, a plaintiff must prove
duty, breach, causation, and damages. (Ortega v. Kmart Corp. (2001) 26 Cal.4th
1200, 1205.) The complaint alleges that the Regents owed a duty of reasonable
care with respect to the hiring, retention, training, and supervision of their agents
and employees and the proper and respectful performance of all steps associated
with the Willed Body Program, including the handling of James Conroy’s body in
an individual, proper, dignified, and lawful manner. The complaint contends that
the Regents breached this duty by conducting or allowing to be conducted private,
for-profit tutoring classes using donated bodies; by conducting or allowing to be
conducted the transport of donated bodies for profit and the sale of donated body
parts for profit; and by failing to ensure that use of the donated bodies conformed
to the purpose of the donation. The complaint alleges also that the Regents
committed a breach by failing to keep records pertaining to the identification of
bodies requested to be returned to family members and by failing to return James
Conroy’s remains to plaintiff. According to the complaint, these breaches caused
plaintiff emotional distress.
Plaintiff’s claim is predicated on the assumption that use of cadavers in a
private, for-profit tutoring class and the sale of body parts for profit is inconsistent
with the terms of the donation agreement, which granted UCI the right to use the
donated bodies “for teaching purposes, scientific research, or such purposes as the
said University or its authorized representative shall in their sole discretion deem
advisable.” Amici curiae Depuy Mitek, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson urge us to
find otherwise, pointing out that a donee “may, if he so desires, transfer his
ownership to another person, whether the gift be of the whole body or merely a
part” (8A West’s U. Laws Annot. (2003) Anatomical Gift Act (1968) § 7, com.,
pp. 146-147), and arguing that the sale of donated body parts is prohibited only in
6
specified situations not present here. (See Health & Saf. Code, §§ 7051, 7158.3;
Health & Saf. Code, former § 7155, subd. (a).)1 We need not decide the precise
contours of UCI’s right to dispose of James Conroy’s body, though, because the
summary judgment record does not support the claim that the Regents mishandled
James Conroy’s body in the manner alleged in the complaint.
Plaintiff attempted to establish a pattern or practice of mishandling bodies
donated to the Willed Body Program, citing the use of cadavers in the private
Medbound class, Replica, Inc.’s window display of photographs of cadavers as
advertisements for the Medbound class, the harvesting of seven cervical spines for
an Arizona hospital in 1999, and a 1998 lawsuit alleging that the Willed Body
Program had failed to comply with a provision in the donation agreement at issue
there to return the cremated remains of loved ones when their bodies were no
longer needed. However, there is no evidence in the record that James Conroy’s
body in particular was used in a private tutoring class, transported or dismembered
for profit, or used in a manner other than what plaintiff contends was authorized
by the donation agreement. This is fatal to plaintiff’s claim. As we have
previously explained, “reports of a general pattern of misconduct are not
sufficient, in and of themselves, to establish that defendants’ misconduct included
mishandling of the remains of each plaintiff’s decedent. . . . [A]n allegation that a
plaintiff suffered emotional distress on learning of that pattern of misconduct does
not allege injury caused by a breach of a duty owed to the plaintiff[].”
(Christensen v. Superior Court (1991) 54 Cal.3d 868, 901 (Christensen).) “A

1
In 2007, after the relevant events in this case, the Legislature repealed the
1987 version of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (Health & Saf. Code, former
§§ 7150-7156.5; see Stats. 1988, ch. 1095, § 1, p. 3539) and reenacted a revised
Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (Health & Saf. Code, §§ 7150-7151.40; see Stats.
2007, ch. 629, § 2). Citations are to the former act, unless otherwise noted.
7


generalized concern that the remains of a relative may have been involved, arising
out of a media report of a pattern of misconduct, is insufficient to satisfy the
requirement that there be a direct connection between a defendant’s conduct and
the injury suffered by the plaintiff. It does not supply a necessary element—that
the injury, here emotional distress, be caused by a breach of the defendant’s duty
to the particular plaintiff.” (Id. at p. 902.) Our case law instead requires “a well-
founded substantial certainty that his or her decedent’s remains were among those
reportedly mistreated.” (Ibid.; see also Bennett v. Regents of University of
California (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 347, 359.) No such evidence appears here.
Plaintiff contends that causation clearly exists here nonetheless, and relies
on a passage in Christensen where we said that factors such as the source of a
plaintiff’s knowledge of misconduct, when that conduct cannot readily be
observed, and the time at which such knowledge was acquired “go to the
reasonableness of a plaintiff’s claim to have suffered severe emotional distress and
thus present issues for the trier of fact.” (Christensen, supra, 54 Cal.3d at p. 902.)
But the quoted excerpt from Christensen was premised on the inclusion of an
allegation in the complaint there that the plaintiffs had “learned from the media
reports that the remains of ‘their’ decedents had been improperly treated,” which
was sufficient to resist a demurrer. (Id. at p. 901, italics added.) In light of that
allegation, we did not question in Christensen “[t]he ability of each plaintiff to
prove either that at the time the plaintiff learned of the misconduct he or she knew
or had substantial reason to believe that the decedent was a victim of defendant’s
misconduct, or that the alleged continuing emotional distress each plaintiff suffers
is based on knowledge that the decedent’s remains have been mishandled.” (Ibid.,
italics added, fn. omitted.) Here, by contrast, we are reviewing a grant of
summary judgment, and the record contains no evidence to support “a well-
8
founded substantial certainty” that James Conroy’s remains were among those
reportedly mishandled. (Id. at p. 902.)
Indeed, as the Court of Appeal pointed out, the record refutes plaintiff’s
claim of mistreatment. “Because James Conroy did not pass away until January
1999, his body could not have been involved in the 1998 Medbound class, nor
could it have been one of the bodies in the photographs taken down from Replica’s
storefront in July 1998. Similarly, the unspecified misconduct alleged in the June
1998 lawsuit necessarily predated its filing and therefore could not have involved
James Conroy’s body. [Plaintiff’s] only specific allegation of mistreatment
occurring when UCI had possession of her husband’s body was the claim that in
June 1999 Brown harvested seven spines from [Willed Body Program] cadavers
for a doctor in Arizona. Nonetheless, she did not dispute the Regents’ evidence
that the spines were ‘fresh tissue specimens from bodies that would have entered
the [Willed Body Program] within a few weeks of the Arizona trip,’ and hence
none of the spines could have been from her husband because he died months
earlier in January.”
Plaintiff relies also on Saari v. Jongordon Corp. (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 797,
which she claims is “directly on point.” Plaintiff has misread Saari. In that case,
the plaintiffs had arranged for the defendant corporation to cremate the decedent’s
body and return the ashes without performing any religious service. In violation
of the terms of the contract, the defendant scattered the decedent’s ashes at sea,
performed a Christian religious service on his remains, and failed to release the
ashes to the decedent’s longtime companion. Then, in violation of a subsequent
agreement with the decedent’s longtime companion, the president of the defendant
corporation, Richard Jongordon, contacted the decedent’s mother and sister and
informed them that the decedent’s ashes had been scattered at sea following a
religious service. (Saari, supra, 5 Cal.App.4th at p. 801.) The decedent’s mother
9
testified that she suffered emotional distress because of the defendant’s
mishandling of her son’s remains and because of her distrust of what Jongordon
himself had said “about the actual disposition of her son’s ashes,” and that, among
other emotional distress damages, she lay awake at night “wondering what had
happened to her son’s remains.” (Id. at p. 806.) Relying on Christensen’s
requirement that a plaintiff establish a well-founded substantial certainty of
mistreatment, the defendant corporation argued that the mother’s uncertainty—i.e.,
her distrust of Jongordon’s account of what had happened to her son’s body and
her corresponding uncertainty as to the actual disposition of her son’s remains—
could not form the basis for recovery of damages for emotional distress. (Saari,
supra, at p. 806.) The Saari court disagreed: “This speaks to a different matter
than that raised in our case. The issue in Christensen was whether persons who
were uncertain if their decedent’s remains were actually mishandled could recover
for emotional distress arising from this uncertainty. Saari’s claim is not that she
does not know if Robert’s remains were mishandled, but that she is not certain
what actual disposition was made of his ashes. As Saari’s uncertainty does not
raise any doubt about whether there was a breach of duty, Christensen does not
preclude this basis of recovery for emotional distress.” (Saari, supra, at p. 806.)
The present case is unlike Saari in that plaintiff has not presented evidence that the
Regents actually mishandled her husband’s remains. Consequently, Saari is
inapplicable.
Plaintiff would appear at first glance to be on firmer ground as to the
allegation in her complaint that the Regents failed in their duty to return her
husband’s ashes to her, in that the record does indisputably show that his remains
were not returned. However, the donation agreement did not specify that the
remains were to be returned to plaintiff; rather, the agreement provided simply that
UCI had a duty to dispose of the body “in accordance with the State Code.” Other
10
parts of the record confirm that plaintiff did not request or expect that the remains
would be returned to her. Indeed, plaintiff’s declaration in opposition to the
motion for summary judgment admits that she expected instead to be notified of
the scattering of ashes at sea so that she could participate in some way in the
service. Defendant was therefore under no duty to return the remains.
Plaintiff’s belated assertion in her declaration in opposition to the motion
for summary judgment that the Regents failed to notify her of the scattering of her
husband’s ashes does not establish error, either. As stated above, the materiality
of a disputed fact is measured by the pleadings. The complaint, which is the
operative pleading here, alleged that the Regents had a duty to return her
husband’s remains, not that the Regents had a duty to notify her of the scattering
of her husband’s ashes so as to enable her to participate in some way in a service.
The Regents, accordingly, had the burden on summary judgment of negating only
those “ ‘theories of liability as alleged in the complaint’ ” and were not obliged to
“ ‘ “ ‘refute liability on some theoretical possibility not included in the
pleadings,’ ” ’ ” simply because such a claim was raised in plaintiff’s declaration
in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. (County of Santa Clara v.
Atlantic Richfield Co. (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 292, 332.) “ ‘Declarations in
opposition to a motion for summary judgment “are no substitute for amended
pleadings.” . . . If the motion for summary judgment presents evidence sufficient
to disprove the plaintiff’s claims, as opposed to merely attacking the sufficiency of
the complaint, the plaintiff forfeits an opportunity to amend to state new claims by
failing to request it.’ ” (Id. at p. 333; see also Melican v. Regents of the University
of California (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 168, 182 [“We do not require the Regents to
negate elements of causes of action plaintiffs never pleaded”].)
Nor did the trial court err in granting summary judgment as to plaintiff’s
claim that the Regents breached their duty to her to maintain adequate records to
11
ensure that the donated bodies were used in accordance with the purpose for which
the donation was made. To the extent plaintiff premised such a duty on the
Regents’ concomitant duty to return her husband’s remains, the claim fails, given
that plaintiff now concedes that the Regents had no duty to return her husband’s
remains. To the extent plaintiff contends that the Regents owed her a duty to
maintain records of her husband’s body even in the absence of any duty to return
his remains, we again disagree. Such a duty appears inconsistent with the
donation agreement itself, which allows UCI to use the body “for teaching
purposes, scientific research, or such purposes as the said University or its
authorized representative shall in their sole discretion deem advisable” and which
imposes no duty on UCI at the completion of its research except to dispose of the
body “in accordance with the State Code.” The Legislature does now require the
donee to return the decedent’s cremated remains, “unless the donor has previously
designated otherwise in the document of gift” (Health & Saf. Code, § 7151.40,
subd. (b)), but this provision applies only to donations made pursuant to a
donation agreement executed after January 1, 2001 (see id., former § 7154, subd.
(d)), and we are loath to expand a donee’s duties in this area beyond those the
Legislature has provided. We note as well that plaintiff cites no authority for her
assertion that the Regents, even in the absence of a duty to return her husband’s
remains, owed her a continuing duty to comply with the Willed Body Program’s
own internal procedures concerning the tracking of cadavers.
Finally, we reject plaintiff’s contention that her husband’s donation of his
body created “a duty to dispose of the remains in a manner that would not shock
the sensibility to family members who enabled [UCI] to take possession of the
[body] in the first place.” Upon execution of the donation agreement and James
Conroy’s death, the statutory right to control the disposition of James Conroy’s
body passed to UCI. (Health & Saf. Code, former §§ 7150.5, subd. (h), 7154,
12
subd. (a).) As the statutory right holder, UCI had “the exclusive right to control
the disposition of the remains, and may do so in a manner offensive to other
family members.” (Christensen, supra, 54 Cal.3d at p. 891, fn. 19.) The only
limitation was that imposed by the donation agreement itself, which provided that
“final disposition of [the] body by UCI shall be in accordance with the State
Code.” State law, which specifically exempts UCI and other medical schools,
hospitals, and public institutions from the Funeral Directors and Embalmers Law
(Bus. & Prof. Code, § 7609), does not impose a duty on UCI to conduct its
teaching and research in such a way as to safeguard the sensibilities of the
surviving family members. “Even where not mishandled, bodies donated to the
[Willed Body Program] are routinely subjected to treatment that could foreseeably
cause emotional distress to family members. . . . But the Legislature has made a
policy decision based on the importance of medical education and research that
universities may act in the manner described above, and [has] expressly exempted
them from the myriad of laws governing funeral directors.” (Melican v. Regents
of University of California, supra, 151 Cal.App.4th at p. 181.)
For these reasons, the order granting summary judgment was not erroneous
as to plaintiff’s negligence cause of action.
B. The Causes of Action for Fraud and Negligent Misrepresentation
The elements of fraud, which give rise to the tort action for deceit, are (1) a
misrepresentation, (2) with knowledge of its falsity, (3) with the intent to induce
another’s reliance on the misrepresentation, (4) justifiable reliance, and (5)
resulting damage. (Small v. Fritz Companies, Inc. (2003) 30 Cal.4th 167, 173.)
The tort of negligent misrepresentation, a species of the tort of deceit (Bily v.
Arthur Young & Co. (1992) 3 Cal.4th 370, 407), does not require intent to defraud
but only the assertion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who has no
13
reasonable ground for believing it to be true. (Small, supra, 30 Cal.4th at pp. 173-
174.)
The complaint alleges that the Willed Body Program, through its agents,
represented that James Conroy’s body would be used for research and teaching
purposes (and not for gain or profit) and that the body would at all times be
handled in a respectful and dignified manner. The complaint alleges further that
these representations were false, in that defendant conducted or allowed to be
conducted private, for-profit tutoring classes using donated bodies; conducted or
allowed to be conducted the transport of bodies for profit and the sale of body
parts for profit; failed to ensure that use of the bodies conformed to the purpose of
the donation; failed to keep records pertaining to the identification of bodies
requested to be returned to family members; and failed to return James Conroy’s
remains to plaintiff. Finally, the complaint alleges that defendant made these
representations to induce plaintiff to participate in the Willed Body Program; that
plaintiff, who was ignorant of the falsity of these representations, relied on them in
electing to participate in the Willed Body Program; and that plaintiff suffered
emotional distress as a consequence.
Once again, though, the summary judgment record does not support the
allegations of the complaint. As discussed in the preceding section, there is no
evidence in the record that James Conroy’s body was used in a clandestine private
tutoring class, transported or dismembered for profit, or used in any manner other
than that specified in the donation agreement. Moreover, the record also reveals
that plaintiff did not request or expect that her husband’s remains would be
returned to her. Because plaintiff failed to identify any false representations, the
trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on the claims of fraud and
negligent misrepresentation.
14
Plaintiff’s claims fail for an additional reason: she has not shown that she
actually relied on the alleged misrepresentations, which is an essential element of
both claims of deceit. (Mirkin v. Wasserman (1993) 5 Cal.4th 1082, 1088-1089.)
“Actual reliance occurs when a misrepresentation is ‘ “an immediate cause of [a
plaintiff’s] conduct, which alters his legal relations,” ’ and when, absent such
representation, ‘ “he would not, in all reasonable probability, have entered into the
contract or other transaction.” ’ [Citations.] ‘It is not . . . necessary that [a
plaintiff’s] reliance upon the truth of the fraudulent misrepresentations be the sole
or even the predominant or decisive factor in influencing his conduct. . . . It is
enough that the representation has played a substantial part, and so has been a
substantial factor, in influencing his decision.’ ” (Engalla v. Permanente Medical
Group, Inc. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 951, 976-977.)
The actual donor in this case was the decedent, James Conroy, and it was
he who executed the donation agreement. Plaintiff attempted to demonstrate that
her husband detrimentally relied on defendant’s representations by reciting in her
declaration that “[i]n reliance on Chris Brown’s statements to me, my husband and
I agreed to donate our bodies to UCI and to participate in the Willed Body
Program.” The trial court sustained the Regents’ objection to this statement as
speculative to the extent it purported to describe James Conroy’s motivation and
ordered the words “my husband” stricken from the declaration. Plaintiff did not
challenge that ruling in the Court of Appeal or in this court.
In other words, the declaration now purports to say only that plaintiff relied
on Brown’s statements. (See Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA, Inc., supra, 36 Cal.4th at
p. 1037.) It is true, as plaintiff points out, that she delivered her husband’s body
“in a particular manner, i.e., unembalmed and unautopsied,” and she claims she
was “induced to do so in reliance upon the promises made by Chris Brown.” But
as the Court of Appeal observed, plaintiff “did not execute her husband’s donation
15
agreement, or make any decision regarding disposition of his body” and thus “had
no legal right to control the disposition of her husband’s body.” The right of
plaintiff, as the surviving spouse, to control the disposition of her husband’s body
was superseded by the terms of the written donation agreement executed by her
husband. (Health & Saf. Code, former § 7154, subd. (a) [“Rights of a donee
created by an anatomical gift are superior to rights of others”]; see also id.,
§ 7100.1, subd. (a); see generally 8A West’s U. Laws Annot., supra, Anatomical
Gift Act (1987) prefatory note, p. 6 [“consent of next of kin after death is not
required if the donor has made an anatomical gift”].) That agreement recited that
James Conroy’s body was to be donated to UCI “immediately” following his death
and that the body, when delivered, was to be “unembalmed and in good
condition.” Those instructions were to be “faithfully carried out upon his . . .
death” and could not be “altered, changed, or otherwise amended in any material
way, except as may be required by law.” (Health & Saf. Code, § 7100.1, subd.
(a).) Plaintiff has not identified any legal basis for altering her husband’s
instructions.
Accordingly, although plaintiff did deliver her husband’s body to UCI, her
actions are not cognizable as reliance for purposes of a claim of deceit, inasmuch
as her husband’s gift was already “irrevocable” upon his death. (Health & Saf.
Code, former § 7150.5, subd. (h).) Plaintiff did not enter into an agreement with
UCI regarding her husband’s body, nor did Brown’s representations cause her to
alter her legal relations with UCI. James Conroy’s gift of his body in an
unembalmed and unautopsied condition, as specified in the donation agreement,
did not require her “consent,” “concurrence,” or “approval.” (Id., former
§ 7150.5, subds. (h), (l); see 8A West’s U. Laws Ann., supra, Anatomical Gift Act
(1987) § 2, com., pp. 26-27 [the Uniform Act “ ‘recognizes and gives legal effect
16
to the right of the individual to dispose of his own body without subsequent veto
by others’ ”].)
For these reasons, the order granting summary judgment was not erroneous
as to plaintiff’s fraud and negligent misrepresentation causes of action.
DISPOSITION
The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed.
BAXTER, J.
WE CONCUR:

GEORGE, C.J.
KENNARD, J.
WERDEGAR, J.
CHIN, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.

17


See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion Conroy v. Regents of University of California
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion


Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 151 Cal.App.4th 132
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.

S153002
Date Filed: April 6, 2009
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:

Superior
County: Orange
Judge: William F. McDonald and David C. Velasquez

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Mahoney & Soll, Paul M. Mahoney and Richard A. Soll for Plaintiff and Appellant.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Marlin & Saltzman, Louis M. Marlin, Dale A. Anderson, Alan S. Lazar and Lynn P. Whitlock for
Defendant and Respondent.

O’Melveny & Myers, Richard B. Goetz, Sabrina H. Strong and Carlos M. Lazatin for DePuy Mitek, Inc.,
and Johnson & Johnson as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Paul M. Mahoney
Mahoney & Soll
150 W. First Street, #280
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 399-9987

Louis M. Marlin
Marlin & Saltzman
3200 El Camino Real, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92602
(714) 669-4900


Petition for review after the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in a civil action. This case presents the following issue: Could the surviving spouse of a person who donated his body for medical research sue in contract or in tort based on claim the university failed to keep track of her husband's body, failed to contact her before disposing of the remains, and allegedly mishandled or treated the remains improperly or in a manner not permitted by the donative contract?

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:Cross Referenced Cases:
Mon, 04/06/200945 Cal. 4th 1244, 203 P.3d 1127, 91 Cal. Rptr. 3d 532S153002Review - Civil Appealclosed; remittitur issued

PERRYMAN v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES (S156334)
VASQUEZ v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES (S157933)
COHEN v. NUVASIVE, INC. (S166020)


Parties
1Bennett, Stephen H. (Pub/Depublication Requestor)
Letwak & Bennett
26400 La Alameda, Suite 200
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

2Conroy, Evelyn (Plaintiff and Appellant)
Represented by Paul M. Mahoney
Mahoney & Soll, LLP
150 W. First Street, Suite 280
Claremont, CA

3Regents Of The University Of California (Defendant and Respondent)
Represented by Louis M. Marlin
Marlin & Saltzman
3200 El Camino Real, Suite 100
Irvine, CA

4Regents Of The University Of California (Defendant and Respondent)
Represented by Dale Arthur Anderson
Marlin & Saltzman
3200 El Camino Real, Suite 100
Irvine, CA

5Depuy Mitek, Inc. (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Richard B. Goetz
O'Melveny & Myers, LLP
400 S. Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA

6Johnson & Johnson (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Richard B. Goetz
O'Melveny & Myers, LLP
400 S. Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Marvin R. Baxter

Disposition
Apr 6 2009Opinion: Affirmed

Dockets
May 29 2007Received:
  Request for Depublicaiton from Stephen H. Bennett (non party) in pro per ** scheduled to be filed June 22 **
Jun 22 2007Request for depublication filed (initial case event)
 
Jun 28 2007Petition for review filed
  Elvyn Conroy, Appellant by Paul Mahoney, counsel
Jun 28 2007Record requested
 
Jul 16 2007Answer to petition for review filed
  Regents of the University of California, Respondents Attorney Dale Anderson
Aug 22 2007Time extended to grant or deny review
  to and including September 26, 2007
Aug 29 2007Record requested
  Via overnight.
Aug 30 2007Received Court of Appeal record
  file jacket, file folder, briefs
Sep 12 2007Letter sent to:
  Counsel enclosing copies of the grant order and the form for certification of interested entities and persons.
Sep 12 2007Petition for review granted (civil case)
  Votes: George, C. J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno and Corrigan, JJ.
Sep 13 20072nd record request
  for balance of the record [Appellant's Appendix (5 vols.), reporter's transcript, judicial notice request, etc.
Sep 18 2007Received Court of Appeal record
  balance of record
Sep 25 2007Certification of interested entities or persons filed
  by Paul M. Mahoney, Mahoney & Soll LLP, counsel for Appellant Evelyn Conroy
Sep 28 2007Certification of interested entities or persons filed
  Respondent Regents of the University of California by Dale A. Anderson, Marlin & Saltzman, retained counsel
Oct 9 2007Opening brief on the merits filed
  Appellant Evelyn Conroy
Nov 2 2007Answer brief on the merits filed
  respondent Regents of the University of California
Jan 14 2008Received:
  reply brief on the merits from Appellant Evelyn Conroy [LATE]
Jan 14 2008Received:
  application to file late reply brief on the merits appellant Evelyn Conroy
Jan 14 2008Filed:
  Application for permission to file a late reply brief on the merits.
Jan 17 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
  Evelyn Conroy, Appellant by Paul M. Mahoney, Counsel - filed with permission
Aug 8 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  & brief of the DePuy Mitek, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson supports respondent The Regents of the Universtiy of California application and brief are separate.
Aug 15 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  Depuy Mitek, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson, non-parties, in support of Regents of the University of California, respondent by Richard B. Goetz, Counsel
Aug 15 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
  The application of DePuy Mitek, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Regents of the University of California is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Aug 26 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
  Evelyn Conroy, appellant to amicus brief of Depuy Mitek, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson
Sep 4 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
  by Regents of the University of California, respondents to amicus brief of Depuy Mitek, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson
Feb 3 2009Case ordered on calendar
  to be argued on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., in San Francisco
Feb 5 2009Order filed
  The issues to be argued by the parties are to be limited to issues 1-4 set forth in Appellant's petition for review.
Mar 4 2009Cause argued and submitted
 
Apr 3 2009Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
 
Apr 6 2009Opinion filed: Judgment affirmed in full
  The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed. Majority Opinion by Baxter, J. Joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno, Corrigan, JJ.
May 8 2009Remittitur issued
 
May 15 2009Received:
  Acknowledgment of receipt for remittitur, signed for by Debra Seporito, Deputy Clerk, CA4/3.

Briefs
Oct 9 2007Opening brief on the merits filed
 
Nov 2 2007Answer brief on the merits filed
 
Jan 17 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
 
Aug 15 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
 
Aug 26 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
 
Sep 4 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
 
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
May 27, 2010
Annotated by elfgirl

Issues:
cadaver donation, fraud, negligence, torts

Background:
On January 25, 1999, James Conroy passed away, leaving behind his wife, the plaintiff, Evelyn Conroy. The decedent had executed a will on June 30, 1996 to donate his body to the University of California Irvine (UCI) Willed Body Program, which accepts human cadavers for scientific and anatomical studies. His donation agreement stated that his body was to be used “teaching purposes, scientific research, or such purposes as the said University or its authorized representative shall in their sole discretion deem advisable” and he agreed that “final disposition of my body by UCI shall be in accordance with the State Code.”
Several months later, the plaintiff read reports of misconduct at the UCI Willed Body Program alleging that that the program had failed to maintain adequate records of the human cadavers donated for teaching and research and that donated bodies could not be located. She contacted the director, who informed her that her husband’s body could not be located because of inadequate records. Additionally, some of the bodies were used as part of a for-profit class, and their photographs were used as advertisements, and seven cervical spines were sold to a researcher.
The plaintiff claimed that she suffered emotional and medical distress from these incidents. She sued the Regents of the University of California asserted claims for breach of implied contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of special duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud and intentional deceit. The trial court dismissed the case in favor of the Regents’ motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed. And the California Supreme Court now affirms.

Negligence:
To prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages. The plaintiff alleged that the Regents owed a duty of reasonable care in the supervision and enactment of the UCI Willed Body Program, and that they breached the duty with the failure to maintain records and the unauthorized uses of the body. The Court finds it a questionable assertion that the for-profit use, sale or dismemberment was specifically against the purpose included in the agreement, and it is not prohibited by law. Additionally, the agreement does not specify that the remains are to be returned to the plaintiff, and the right to dispose of the remains passed to UCI upon donation, so keeping records are not part of their duty to the plaintiff. However, the court does not even need to reach this question, because the plaintiff did not adequately show causation. Prior cases have established that “reports of a general pattern of misconduct are not sufficient, in and of themselves, to establish that defendants’ misconduct included mishandling of the remains of each plaintiff’s decedent.” Christensen v. Superior Court. 54 Cal.3d 868, 901 (1991). Therefore, because there was no proof offered that it was actually James Conroy’s body that was used in the private class, or dismembered and sold (and the timing of these events indicates it could not have been), she did not prove the causation requirement.

Fraud and Misrepresentation:
The plaintiff contends that the UCI Willed Body Program misrepresented the program by alleging that they would use the bodies in a respectful and dignified manner, for non-profit research and teaching, and records would be kept to enable the return of the bodies. However, none of these allegations were misrepresentations, because the plaintiff has no evidence that the Willed Body Program promised any more than to use the body for “such purposes as the said University or its authorized representative shall in their sole discretion deem advisable” and never promised to return the body, but only to dispose of the body “in accordance with the State Code.”
Thus, the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirming the summary judgment dismissal in favor of the defendant for both the allegations of fraud and negligence were affirmed by the California Supreme Court.