In my torts class, we often discuss accounts of “spontaneous combustion” particularly after discussing the case of spontaneous combustion of a hay rick in Vaughn v. Menlove. Such cases have occasionally been reported with people, albeit to skeptical police. The latest comes from Ireland where Michael Faherty, 76, seemed to spontaneously combust.
West Galway coroner Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin listed the cause of death as spontaneous combustion — the first such finding in his 25 years.
Faherty died at his home in Galway on December 22, 2010, but found no accelerant, foul play, or evidence of an accident. He was found lying on his back with his head closest to an open fireplace, but the fireplace was ruled out as a cause. Only the ceiling above him and the floor below him were affected.
These cases often involve combustion that does not affect nearby furniture or drapes or material. The cases often do occur near furnaces or fireplaces. No, it is not because my ancestors in Ireland are full of combustible liquids. Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is reported around the world. One believer in SHC was Charles Dickens who included such a death of Mr. Krook in Bleak House.
I am not sure how insurance companies handle such a novel and rare finding. It is an official finding that is usually determinative for insurance purposes. Yet, some remain skeptical of the claims.