A judge has ruled that Harvard can’t be sued over a scandal involving the alleged theft and sale of body parts that were donated for medical research.

The Harvard morgue's director, Cedric Lodge, was arrested last June and charged with stealing body parts that include heads, brains, skin and bones from bodies that were donated to the university, a scheme that purportedly began in 2018 and continuing until last year. Lodge and his wife were charged with selling the remains to three others, who are also facing charges. The indictment said Lodge allowed the buyers into the morgue to pick out what they wanted to purchase.

The lawsuit against Harvard and two employees who ran the university’s anatomical gift program was brought by 47 plaintiffs whose family members’ bodies were donated.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Salinger dismissed the case on Monday.

“The factual allegations in the complaints do not plausibly suggest that these Harvard defendants failed to act in good faith in receiving and handling the donated bodies, or that they are legally responsible for Mr. Lodge’s alleged misconduct,” Salinger wrote in his decision.

A spokesperson for Harvard said Tuesday that the university declined to comment. At the time of Lodge’s indictment, the U.S. Attorney's office said Harvard cooperated with the investigation.

“We are profoundly disappointed in this opinion, and we think it’s wrong,” said Kathryn Barnett, an attorney with the law firm Morgan & Morgan, who is representing plaintiffs in the case against Harvard.

Barnett said they plan to appeal the dismissal.

“What the judge did here sets an incredibly dangerous precedent for the entire country,” Barnett said. “The families I represent want, more than anything else, to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. ... Justice for them is making sure this doesn't happen somewhere else.”

Barnett objected to the judge’s determination that Harvard acted in good faith because the university didn’t know about the scheme.

“What that sets up here is a system whereby the court is saying, ‘Run one of these programs all you want. What you need to do is just give the keys to someone, tell them where the morgue is, and don't ever look again. Turn a blind eye. ... Don't screen your employees. Don't put in security measures. As long as you don't watch what's happening, then you don't know, and you're not liable. And you can walk right out without any responsibility.’ That's appalling,” she said.

The families, Barnett said, put their trust in Harvard, not Cedric Lodge.

“It was their it was their program. It was their people. It was their policies, their facility,” she said. “And Harvard had a responsibility to do right by these families. They didn’t.”

Dr. Jack Porter, a research associate at Harvard, was among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Porter donated his wife’s body to the school in 2017.

“I’m disappointed, of course. Naturally, I would love to collect some money,” Porter said.

Porter said he’s unsurprised by the ruling, though.

“The real question is, what impact this will have on anatomical gifts to Harvard?” he said. “Will people stop giving to them? Will people stop giving money to Harvard?”