HONOLULU – Nuuanu Mortuary and its owners agreed in an out-of-court settlement yesterday to pay $750,000 and apologize for the placing of a dead pig in a sealed box containing the body of a Jewish woman.
The money will go to the family of Kailua resident Mimi Goldberg, 89, who died in April 27, 1990. Her body was shipped with the fetal pig to Oakland for a Jewish orthodox burial.
The settlement came at the start of what would have been the third day of trial in Circuit Judge Virginia Lea Crandall’s courtroom over the family’s lawsuit against the mortuary, which handled the arrangements here; Valley of the Temples Corp., and Trousdale Enterprises.
The settlement also calls for the companies to make a donation to the newly opened U.S. Holocaust memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., in Goldberg’s memory so that she will be remembered “as a symbol of triumph over ethnic and religious intolerance,” Mark Davis, attorney for the family, said.
Pigs are considered unclean in the Jewish religion and eating pork is prohibited.
The amount of the donation will be up to the companies, Davis said.
The companies will also issue a written apology to be published in Honolulu and California newspapers saying the heads of staff of Nuuanu Mortuary and Valley of the Temples Corp. “sincerely regret the incident involving the remains of Mimi Lazarus Goldberg,” Davis said.
It will also say they extend their “deepest and sincerest apology for the suffering they have suffered,” he said.
William McCorriston, Trousdale’s attorney, said both sides reached a point where they believed the case should be settled. He said further trial would not have helped either side, including the “well-being of the Goldberg family.”
He said the amount of the donation is unspecified.
Neil Goldberg, Mimi Goldberg’s son, called the settlement a victory. He said the family had to wait three years for the mortuary and owners to acknowledge what happened and apologize.
“We are as happy as can be.” He said. “We accept the apology. We are ready to move onward.”
Davis said he and his clients agreed not to speculate about the motivations behind what happened, but said “the facts are clear as a bell.”
“This is a case about anti-Semitism,” he said. “This is a case which has to do with whether people are reluctant to believe anti-Semitism exists.”
McCorriston, however, said the incident was a “regrettable accident.”
“Definitely, it was not an anti-Semitic act,” he said.
According to both sides, the fetal pig was placed in the mortuary refrigerator by a part-time employee who wanted to store it until he could place it in a Dumpster for trash collection. His wife had dissected the fetal pig as part of a community college class and asked him to dispose of it.
An embalmer later placed the pig, which was in a non-transparent plastic trash bag, in the metal shipping box containing Goldberg’s body. The embalmer later said he thought the bag contained Goldberg’s personal effects.
The settlement also calls for the mortuary to adopt written rules and regulations for the securing and restricting access to the areas containing human remains, Davis said. Also, the companies must implement a program of “employee sensitivity and consciousness education with regard to ethnic, religious and racial tolerance,” he said.
McCorriston said the companies agreed to adopt “fail-safe procedures” to prevent a reoccurrence “no matter how stupid or foolish an employee may be.”
During opening statements the companies’ attorneys told the jury that the part-time employee was “wrong” and “stupid” for putting the pig in the refrigerator, but said he was acting outside the scope of his job and the companies shouldn’t be blamed for it.