Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Judge upholds suit over Marine's missing heart

Jul. 15, 2014 - 03:49PM   |  
Marine Brian LaLoup died in 2012 while stationed in Greece. LaLoup's parents said when his body arrived home in Pennsylvania, his heart was missing and they've sued the Department of Defense.
Marine Brian LaLoup died in 2012 while stationed in Greece. LaLoup's parents said when his body arrived home in Pennsylvania, his heart was missing and they've sued the Department of Defense. (LaLoup family / via AP)
  • Filed Under

PHILADELPHIA — The family of a Marine whose body came back from Greece without his heart can pursue negligence claims against the United States, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled. However, the judge found that Greek officials and the Athens hospital where the autopsy was performed are immune from the Pennsylvania family’s lawsuit.

The dispute involves the August 2012 suicide of Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup, who shot himself after a party at the U.S. embassy in Athens, where he was stationed. His heart went missing after an autopsy at an Athens hospital. His parents learned that from U.S. military officials only after his funeral — and they still don’t know where it is.

“Many people thought we wouldn’t be able to get this far,” family lawyer Aaron J. Freiwald said Tuesday of the partial court victory. “This family now stands on an even playing field with the U.S. government. ... This is extremely important and gratifying.”

His clients, Craig and Beverly LaLoup of Coatesville, near Philadelphia, can now investigate the handling of their son’s body through legal discovery.

“This is his heart. This is his soul. This is what made Brian who he is,” Beverly LaLoup told The Associated Press last year.

The parents also hope to learn more about their son’s death. They believe their son told a colleague that he was suicidal over a breakup that night, but he was nonetheless allowed to keep drinking and gain access to a weapons closet. They are pursuing emotional distress claims because the U.S. military is generally immune from wrongful-death lawsuits, their lawyer said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported Tuesday on the ruling last week from U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell.

Dalzell pondered whether U.S. military officials owe a duty of care to the parents of an adult service member. He concluded that they may.

“The relationship involves life and death, and (prior case law) recognized that those caring for the bodies ... have been found to have a duty to family members,” he said.

U.S. military officials discovered the heart was missing when they performed a second autopsy on Aug. 22, after the body arrived in Dover, Del. The family learned that on Sept. 17, two weeks after the funeral.

A Greek embassy spokesman in Washington, D.C., has said the hospital kept the heart for toxicology tests, but he declined to say what happened to it later.

The LaLoups have not rule out filing suit in Greece against other defendants, Freiwald said.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia represents the U.S. military defendants in the federal lawsuit. The office declined to comment Tuesday because the lawsuit remains active, spokeswoman Patty Hartman said.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

Promotion system overhaul
Update likened to 'fifth-generation' aircraft

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook