Evanston Ins. Co. v. Legacy of Life, 55 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 1102 (2012).
Daughter allowed Organ Donation Charity to harvest Mother’s tissues. Daughter asserts that Charity told her it would distribute them on a non-profit basis. She claims that Mother’s estate is entitled to restitution damages and that she has suffered mental anguish because Charity transferred Mother’s tissues to companies that sold them at a profit. After litigation with Charity’s insurance carrier arose, the Texas Supreme Court accept certificated questions relating to insurance coverage. In deciding that no coverage existed, the court made two significant holdings.
First, the court held that Daughter had at most a quasi-property interest in Mother’s tissue. The court stated, “we cannot say that tissues have attained the status of property of the next of kin.” It is true that the next of kin may donate a decedent’s organs but they have no right to use those tissues unless the decedent named one or more of them as donees.
Second, the court concluded that Mother’s tissues were not the property of her estate. A person’s estate cannot designate a donee under the Texas Anatomical Gift Act. See Tex. Health & Safety Code § 692A.009(a). Because the court “held that tissues are not the property of the next of kin, [the court] necessarily conclude[d] that tissues are also not the property of the estate.”
Moral: A family member unhappy with how a donee handles an anatomical gift will have difficulty recovering on property-based claims.