Civil Litigation: A Case of Freeze-Dried Fraud



Worthington Law|Civil Litigation: A Case of Freeze-Dried Fraud

About This Case

To be a good litigator it often helps to be a good investigator. Gumshoe work can help your client’s cause and provide the facts required to convince a courtroom jury. When the case involves outright fraud, detective work becomes an absolute necessity, especially when your client says he was ripped off over false promises to freeze his loved one’s remains.

Once upon a time, some shysters in the San Fernando Valley were making promises to gullible relatives of their critically ill loved ones that their “cryonic suspension” service for freezing bodies at the time of death would enable preservation of the loved one’s remains until such time as they could be reanimated. It was presumed that in the future a cure would be found for the illness that had interrupted their lives, and they could come back to life.

The cryogenic suspension promoters had claimed that Walt Disney was frozen after his death, but in fact he was cremated in 1966 and his remains placed here at Forest Lawn. Photo: Kafziel,

The promoters claimed that famous people like Walt Disney and baseball legend Ted Williams had been so impressed by the concept that they had ordered themselves frozen and suspended. Soon credulous people were signing up for the promise that they could cheat death by delivering terminal family members  into the program. Their enthusiasm was so great that some customers also included sick pets of their family members so they could all be happily reunited at a later date.

Michael Worthington’s clients were people who were having second thoughts about the process, and harboring doubts whether the bodies were kept frozen. The initial detective work Worthington engaged in was finding other buyers who had paid for the promised freeze-now, come-back-later service on the promise of eventual revival. He also investigated the individuals involved in the administration of the program to understand how it was conceived and how it was working in practice.

The Awful Truth

He filed a lawsuit and obtained an order permitting access to a cemetery plot in Chatsworth, California where the frozen family members were supposedly stored for safe-keeping. He then retained the services of a pathologist to accompany him on the entry and inspection of the tomb, where they discovered that the bodies were left in bags on the floor at room temperature. In their unfrozen state, there was obviously no chance of reanimation.

In court, the cryonics company’s attorney claimed that the defendants were engaged in legitimate scientific research, so it couldn’t be said they would never be proven right. In other words, the company’s lawyers wanted to cast the case as a replay of the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial”, a 1925 courtroom battle over the teaching of human evolution in Tennessee’s public schools.

But then Worthington revealed his evidence that the California bodies had not been kept frozen and their treatment was hardly dignified. After a five-week jury trial, he proved that regardless of whether or not the science behind the service was bogus, the “freeze your relative to preserve him/her for future reanimation” promise was a fraud. He won a million dollar jury verdict benefitting the heirs of the people who had signed up.

Lessons Learned

Successful civil litigation involves gaining a command of the facts, marshaling a bullet-proof argument and presenting it to a skeptical judge or jury. In a proper case, it can simply involve showing your cards to your opponent at the right moment and scaring them into a settlement. Over the years, Michael Worthington has demonstrated a superior capacity to see through the smoke and mirrors so often constructed by rule-benders in the course of doing business, and it has paid off for his many clients who benefitted from his powers of logic and detection.