England v. Central Pocahontas Coal Co.

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In England v. Central Pocahontas Coal Co., 86 W. Va. 575, 104 S.E. 46 (1920), the West Virginia Supreme Court held that:

"It is conceded that at the common law there was no right of property in a dead body, and that once interred it became a part of the soil where laid; and in England the protection of sepulcher was generally controlled by the Ecclesiastical law. 2 Blackstone, 428; Meagher v. Driscoll, 99 Mass. 281, 96 Am. Dec. 759. In this country we have no Ecclesiastical law controlling the subject. The right however to bury a corpse and to preserve the remains is a legal right which the courts of this country recognize and protect; and this right is regarded as a quasi right of property. 17 Corpus Juris, p. 1139; 8 Ruling Case Law, p. 684; State v. Highland, 71 W. Va. 87, 76 S.E. 140. And the right, according to the authorities in this country, exists in near relatives, and is cognizable in courts of law as well as in equity, and so long as the right of interment exists it may be vindicated by them in such courts."