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Corona Woman Sues TWA Over Mate’s Lost Remains

Times Staff Writer

A Corona woman has filed a $78,000 lawsuit against Trans World Airlines for losing her luggage, which she said contained the cremated remains of her husband.

Dorothy Coughlin was taking the ashes of her husband, Edward, from Los Angeles to Boston for burial last year, when, according to her attorney, TWA lost her baggage.

They had been married for six years when Edward Coughlin died from a stroke in March, 1984. “One of his last wishes was to be buried back in Boston, where his family was,” said Marc Levine, Dorothy Coughlin’s attorney.

Ashes in a Box

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Coughlin had her husband cremated and set off for Boston with the ashes in a box.

Coughlin was “afraid if the airplane went down she wanted to be with Ed,” Levine explained. “Even though they were ‘just ashes,’ she didn’t think they should be alone.” But Coughlin apparently held too much carry-on baggage, her attorney said, so airline employees made her put the ashes in one of the suitcases she checked through to Boston.

“They ultimately lost her baggage,” Levine said.

Coughlin’s lawsuit, filed last week in Riverside County Superior Court, seeks $78,829.40 in damages --$75,000 for the loss of her husband’s ashes, the rest for clothing, jewelry and other personal items that were lost with her bags.

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“I’m no more qualified than anyone else to put a value on the ashes,” Levine said. “Ashes have no market value . . . (but) the emotional distress suffered by Mrs. Coughlin is great.”

The lawsuit claims that TWA should be held liable for the loss, and that the airline acted negligently and failed to meet its contractual obligation to transport Coughlin and her belongings to Boston, Levine said.

The airline initially gave Coughlin $269 to help replace her clothing, Levine said, and offered her an additional $981 after it was unable to locate her baggage. TWA claims the $1,250 total is the limit of its liability, the attorney said.

‘We’re Leaving It’

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“They said, ‘That’s it, take it or leave it.’ We’re leaving it,” Levine said. “We’ll take our day in court . . . . “

TWA officials said Monday they had not had time to research the Coughlin case and could not make specific comments.

“Lost baggage is an immense inconvenience for anyone,” said Jerry Cosley, TWA’s vice president for corporate communications. ". . . but to have this kind of emotional loss is extraordinary.”

Coughlin, who is visiting relatives in the Boston area, could not be reached for comment.

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