A D.C. Superior Court jury has awarded $53,000 to three sisters of a Northeast man whose unidentified body lay in the city morgue for a month before it was donated to the Howard University Medical School.
A suit filed in 1978 by the sisters of the late Casper Yeagin contended that the D.C. government and Howard University Hospital had failed to properly identify Yeagin after his death and notify his next of kin. The sisters said only they had the legal right to dispose of their brother's body.
A D.C. police officer found Yeagin on Sept. 11, 1977, intoxicated and lying unconscious on the street, according to testimony in the trial. He was then taken to a city detoxification center.
At that time, Yeagin was carrying a wallet with a slip of paper bearing the address and phone number of his nephew, Jesse J. Brown, witnesses testified.
Yeagin's belongings were removed and placed in storage at the detoxification center and the phone number and address found in his wallet were never investigated, according to testimony.
The next day, Yeagin became ill and was transported to Howard University Hospital, where he was admitted as an unidentified person, according to testimony.
One of the sisters, Pearlie S. Smith, testified that she and her daughter made repeated phone calls to the hospital but were told each time that no one of Yeagin's description had been admitted.
Yeagin's sisters contended, among other things that city employes "failed to examine the papers in Yeagin's wallet, at or after the time he was transported to Howard University Hospital" and that the city failed for nearly four months to match fingerprints with the prints taken from Yeagin's body at the hospital.
The hospital was cited for negligence in the suit because, the suit said, its employes repeatedly denied that Yeagin was a patient "not withstanding the fact that he was the only unidentified patient at the hospital during the period."
After his death on Nov. 3, 1977, Yeagin's body was taken from the hospital to the D.C. medical examinier's office where it remained unidentified for 30 days. The body was then donated to the Howard University Medical School.
Yeagin was identified on Jan. 4, 1978, after police matched the fingerprints of the body with fingerprints in the police files.
Judge Nicholas Nunzio dismissed the negligence charges against Howard University Hospital last Friday. The city will be directed to pay the sisters -- Pearlie S. Smith, Hattie Lee Smith and Claudie Barnes -- the $53,000. It was unknown whether the city would appeal the settlement.