Recently in Funeral Home Negligence Category

June 12, 2009

Funeral Home Abuse Lawsuit Alleges Body Was Mishandled

California funeral home abuse attorneys at Bisnar | Chase have handled several cases on behalf of grief-stricken families who are plunged into further sorrow because of unethical funeral homes and cemeteries that cut corners while providing their services. Here's one example of such funeral home abuse from Houma, Louisiana where one family has filed a funeral home abuse lawsuit claiming that an organ donation agency and other businesses that handled their loved one's body, allowed it to decompose forcing them to have a closed casket ceremony.

According to an Associated Press news report, the family of Francis Toups Jr. alleges that the 53-year-old man's body was treated with a "callous disregard for its condition and the effect it would have upon the deceased's relatives." The family claims that the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency failed to properly transport, embalm and take other steps to preserve the body. The family seeks unspecified damages from the agency, the Clark-Ducote and Samart funeral homes as well as Limousines Limited, a limo company in Crowley, Louisiana.

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December 19, 2008

Former Funeral Home Director Faces Civil Lawsuit

A former funeral director of an Arizona funeral home has been named as the defendant in a civil lawsuit. The man who filed the lawsuit claims that employees at the funeral home stole valuable items left on his deceased father’s body. According to this news report in the Eastern Arizona Courier, Matthew Mendoza entrusted the body of his father to the Morris-David funeral and interment services of which Anthony E. Davis was the manager.

Mendoza alleged in his complaint that he was not allowed to see his father before the cremation and that he did not receive his father’s personal property that was given to the funeral home. Some of the items that were “missing” include $600 in cash, a wallet, a Waterman fountain pen, a reproduction World War II bullet lighter and a wedding ring. Mendoza is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages in this case.

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January 2, 2008

Mortuary Mix-Up Leads to Wrong Body Being Buried In Newport Beach Grave

A funeral home mix-up led to the wrong body being buried in a grave at the Pacific View Cemetery in Corona del Mar. This mix-up was particularly traumatic for the families because it involved four seniors who died in a horrific big-rig crash in Tennessee during a cross-country road trip. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the body that was buried in the grave meant for 72-year-old Rheta Kanter was actually that of Judith Stele, Kanter’s friend who also died in the auto accident.

The mistake has however been corrected, say officials who are blaming medical and mortuary officials for the mix-up. But family members still had to go through the emotional torture of seeing their loved one’s grave being bulldozed open. Not only that, Kanter’s children were earlier prevented from identifying her body because they were told it was “in pieces.” In truth, Kanter’s body was not as badly traumatized.

They are appalled at the mortuary’s incompetence, as they should be. No family, that had already undergone the grief of so suddenly and shocking lost a loved one, should be put through the trauma of having to dig up a body or have their loved one buried in the wrong place. The family had no idea about the mistake until they were given a bag with what officials said was Kanter’s jewelry, when it in fact was Stele’s jewelry.

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November 10, 2007

Investigators Catch Unlicensed Embalmer At Well-Known San Diego Mortuary

A San Diego area mortuary has been put on probation and a former director's license has been revoked because he allowed an employee to embalm bodies without a California license. According to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Poway-Bernardo Mortuary, recently featured on A & E Channel's program called "Family Plots," has been accused of engaging in unlicensed embalming, fraud, negligence, incompetence and unprofessional conduct.

An investigator at the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau reportedly got a tip from a staff member at the mortuary that director, Richard Sadler, was allowing an unlicensed employee to embalm remains. Sadler no longer works there, the newspaper reported. The mortuary may still operate, but under the careful observation of state officials. It could take up to three years to restore its good standing with officials, the article said.

An investigator reportedly caught the mortuary "in the act" of violation on July 27, 2006 when he paid an unannounced visit and found an employee wearing an apron with blood on it. The employee at first told the investigator he hadn't done any embalming, but later recanted his story and admitted to doing it. Sadler reportedly paid this man $100 per embalming under the table and told employees to "keep it quiet."

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October 17, 2007

Cremation Errors Result In Grief and a Lawsuit

An Alabama family has filed a federal lawsuit stating that a cremation company gave them the ashes of the wrong person. The family later found that the error was the result of a three-way mix-up, according to a news report in the Knoxville News Sentinel. That means two other deceased people's ashes were interred in the wrong place as well!

The family is seeking $500,000 in damages from Littlebrook Cremation Co. and its owner, the newspaper reported. The remains in question were those of Mark Gibson who died April 29. The family reportedly discovered the error just before a scheduled memorial service when family members noticed that the ashes came labeled under a different name, the article stated.

So the family, which was already in grief, was sent on this most unnecessary quest to find their loved one's remains. They first thought the ashes were buried in the Veterans Cemetery in Alabama, but later found that another woman's remains were interred there, also by mistake. An anthropologist determined that the remains sent to the family were not of Gibson, but another man, Keith Vincent.

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October 2, 2007

Funeral Homes That Bilk Consumers Must Be Made to Pay

Funeral home abuse is something you hear about rarely. A lot of people don’t even want to talk about it. Can you blame them? Their loved one dies and then they are given more grief by insensitive, irresponsible and immoral funeral homes and cemeteries, who tend to forget they are providing a humanitarian service in addition to running a business. They tend to forget they are dealing with people who are in a fragile state of mind and who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

How can they forget that, you ask? Aren’t they supposed to be caring people who deal with the situation with sensitivity? Maybe, in a perfect world. The reality is that a lot of funeral homes don’t operate like that. At Bisnar Chase, we’ve been appalled and disgusted by the some of the things our clients have told us. These are clients who have had horrible experiences while trying to bid their loved one a final farewell. These are clients who come to us because they are people who believe they’ve been wronged and they deserve better. And guess what? They’re absolutely right.

Take the example of this son whose father passed away on Jan. 3. The hearse picked up the body and took it to a funeral home in Orange County. The next time the family saw their loved one, his face was bloody. There was a cut on his forehead and he was bleeding! They learned later that the people who transported the deceased dropped him as they were carrying his body into the funeral home. Neither those people nor the funeral home managers bothered to clean up the wound or tell the family about it. Can you imagine how they must’ve felt? The hearse company who contracted with the funeral home said they fired the men who dropped the body, but does that make it OK? Not really.

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September 25, 2007

Arizona Funeral Home Under Investigation For Mixing Remains

By: Staff Writer

Here's a story that won't just make your stomach turn, but make you wonder what the heck is wrong with the world today! A Phoenix funeral home is reportedly under investigation after reports that they cremated a person's body mixed up with the remains of up to three other people. According to a KPHO TV news report, the Greer Wilson Funeral Home is accused of adding three bags of body parts to be cremated with someone else's body. The incident reportedly occurred four years ago.

Mixing remains in that manner is not only illegal in this country, but it shows a clear lack of respect for the deceased. What does the funeral home have to say in its defense? Nothing apparently -- other than a pretty weak "mea culpa." An attorney for the funeral home said his clients admit they messed up. During a hearing, funeral home administrators said the incident occurred in 2003 when they found an unlabeled box from a hospital in their cooler with three bags of organs. CBS 5 reportedly confirmed through state records that those organs that were cremated with another body were brains.

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June 22, 2007

Family Sues Cemetery After Remains are Moved a Second Time

A Texas widow has sued Service Corporation International, one of the world's largest funeral companies which owns cemetery properties here in Orange County, CA. Juanita Guerra alleges in her lawsuit that the Mont Meta Memorial Park in San Benito, Texas, moved her husband’s remains not once, but twice, over a period of just five years.

According to an article published in the Brownsville Herald, Juanita Guerra had picked a spot at the cemetery for her husband, Marcos, because it was just a few feet away from where other family members were buried. Marcos was laid to rest on Oct. 8, 2001. But barely a month later, as the pain of losing her husband was still fresh, Juanita was forced to relocate Marcos’ body because the cemetery said they messed up and gave her plots someone else had already bought, the lawsuit states.

Here is the worst part. A year after putting her through the "we messed up" and having to dig up and move her husband's body, the cemetery moves his body again – this time without even telling the poor woman! Can you imagine going to a cemetery to visit a loved one only to find that their body and grave stone have been replaced with someone else's remains? Can you imagine a multi-million dollar corporation digging up your husbands remains and moving them a second time, without any notification to you? Deplorable!

Juanita Guerra's lawsuit accuses SCI of fraud, trespassing, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here’s what the plaintiff’s attorney tells the newspaper:

“If there is anybody that is doing the work of the devil, this company seems to be doing it.”

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June 15, 2007

Cemetery Fraud Results in a Million Dollar Judgment

An Alabama jury awarded $1 million to a Prattville physician who sued a local cemetery for breach of contract because cemetery officials reduced the size of a 16-plot parcel the doctor bought in 1976 for $1,595.

According to an Associated Press news article posted in the Decatur Daily, the jury decided against the owners of Prattville Memory Gardens, awarding the plaintiffs the highest damages recorded in Decatur county for such a lawsuit -- $80,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

The physician, Dr. W. E. "Gene" Patterson, who plans to be buried in the plot, bought it 31 years ago as an "estate plot" from the former owner of the business. Patterson had envisioned it as a family memorial with concrete walkways, a large family marker and landscaping, the article said. The doctor, who told the reporter that he was surprised at the jury's verdict, said he was happy that the cemetery owners have been penalized and held liable for breach of contract and fraud.

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June 3, 2007

Cemetery Switches Graves to Cover Up its Mistake

A mother is suing a South Carolina cemetery saying that her son's casket was dug up and moved without informing the family, according to a news article published in the Spartanburg Herald Journal. Debra Polson's 21-year-old son, Jonathan, died Dec. 3 and was buried there four days later. But three weeks later, the mother noticed a marker with another man's name at the site.

Polson's attorney says the cemetery violated South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations by failing to have a licensed funeral director present and by not obtaining the necessary permits to remove Jonathan Polson's casket from its grave. The complaint states that the cemetery's conduct was so extreme and outrageous to exceed all possible bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in our civilized society."

The lawsuit also states that when the family first let cemetery management know that there was a different marker at the gravesite, they were actually told that they had been visiting the wrong grave. Of course, later they admitted that Polson's vault had been moved to another part of the cemetery because they had mistakenly buried him originally in a plot owned by another family.

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June 2, 2007

Mortician Accused of Fraud and Shoddy Embalming

To put it mildly, Roy Williams is a man in a lot of trouble - as he should be. According to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Williams, now a former mortician, is accused of shoddy embalming and fraud. Williams, over the last 20 months, has also been stripped of his business and professional licenses, the newspaper article says.

Williams' funeral home in Alton, Missouri, first drew attention in October 2005 when the family of Lloyd White complained that the man had "mishandled White's remains." The family told police that White was not wearing the clothes the family had brought for him to be buried in and that his body was placed inside the casket, wrapped in nothing but a bloody sheet.

Then, last June, Williams was sued by a casket selling company alleging that Williams hadn't paid the $3,000 he owed them. A judge in August ordered Williams to pay the amount with interest after he never responded to the suit. Then this month, the Illinois Comptroller's Office filed a petition in Madison County Circuit Court seeking to appoint a temporary administrator to recoup some of the money paid by clients to Williams, the newspaper article said.

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May 30, 2007

Funeral Home Negligence Results in Lost Gravesite - Mom Files Lawsuit

A resident in Amarillo, Texas, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Lubbock Cemetery, alleging that the grave marker indicating her infant daughter's burial site has been moved and that she doesn't know if or where her daughter's body has been moved, according to an article in theDaily Toreador.

Connie Sanders purchased a burial plot at the city-run cemetery in the early 1970s to bury the little girl in an area of the park called "Baby Land." Sanders has since moved away from Lubbock and became concerned when she heard about problems at the cemetery and a prior lawsuit they're facing. So she decided to check it out for herself. Sure enough, when she came to Lubbock to visit the burial site, the marker was gone. Sanders' attorney told the newspaper that the only information the city has provided is a card-like filing system that acknowledges that the girl was buried somewhere in the cemetery. But there is absolutely no physical proof, no marker.

Sanders' attorney has been contacted by other families whose loved ones were buried at that cemetery, but this is his first case regarding Baby Land, he told the newspaper. The city meanwhile says it will vigorously defend the lawsuits. The cemetery holds more than 400 funerals a year. So far, six other plaintiffs have filed suit against the cemetery making similar allegations. Sanders is filing for monetary compensation seeking damages for the emotional pain and suffering they are experiencing. Her attorney says the city cannot provide any other relief at this point.

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