Family Sues UCI Over Remains Mix-Up


The children of a Santa Ana woman who donated her body to UC Irvine’s College of Medicine filed suit Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, claiming breach of contract and emotional distress because the university provided them with the wrong cremated remains.

Anneliese Yuenger had donated her body to the school’s Willed Body Program this year. She was 82 when she died in April. Her three children claim in the suit that they paid a $600 fee to have their mother’s ashes returned to them, but university employees gave them the wrong cremated remains.

“The family went through an interment procedure with the [wrong] ashes, rented a boat and sent ashes to Japan for family members to keep,” said Darren Aitken, attorney for the family.


Records released by the university this fall, as well as a metal cremation tag included among the ashes that were given the Yuengers, show that the ashes returned to the family came from body parts burned two months before Anneliese Yuenger died.

University officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but previously have acknowledged the error and other problems in the program.

Aitken said the three Yuenger children still don’t know what happened to their mother’s body, despite selecting the UCI program because it was one of the few that would accommodate the family’s request to have her ashes returned.

“We have no idea what happened to their mother,” Aitken said, adding that the university has told the family that she isn’t among four unidentified, embalmed bodies in the school’s anatomy morgue.

“Their record keeping is bad enough that who knows if that is correct,” he said.

In September, the university announced it had uncovered poor record keeping and financial abuses, and was unable to identify all the bodies in the program. The director of the program was fired, and the Orange County district attorney’s office is investigating whether bodies were used for private profit.

The dismissed director, Christopher S. Brown, has denied the allegations that he or his friends made an illegal or improper profit from the program. He is appealing his firing.


Diane Yuenger of Orange County, Paul Yuenger of Torrance and Raymond Yuenger of Fresno are seeking unspecified damages from the university, Brown and several of his acquaintances.