There have been instances of negligence by funeral homes, mortuaries, cemeteries, and crematories that mishandled the decedent’s remains. Such misconduct is devastating for the family and loved ones of the decedent at a time when they are still grieving. Such negligence on the part of those who have been entrusted with handling the decedent’s remains can cause significant emotional distress for the family, who can recover damages by filing a negligence lawsuit.
Types of Negligent Acts
Among the types of negligent acts committed are the following:
- Cremation of the wrong bodies;
- Improper storage of the bodies;
- Improper burial or no burial;
- Improper embalming;
- Placement of many bodies in one coffin;
- Removal and sale of body parts; and
- Vandalization of grave sites.
Negligence on the Part of a Funeral Home and Cemetery
One example of such negligence occurred recently in Houston, Texas, where a coffin holding the remains of a Carolyn Joyce Fobbs-Lee was lifted to the surface by flood waters. The coffin was transported 50 yards by the flood prior to coming to a stop on a concrete trail for hiking and biking adjacent to a guardrail.
The decedent’s husband, Richard Lee, said that in May 2015, he received a telephone call from a deacon of the church associated with the cemetery where his wife was buried. Lee had buried his wife in 2007. The deacon said that his wife’s casket had risen to the surface, and requested that Lee go to the cemetery in order to identify her. The widower was understandably in great distress over what had happened, but he did not have to identify the body because the Harris County Institute of Forensic Services acquired the remains and identified the body.
Lee hired an attorney, Annie McAdams, and they were planning to go to the grave site with a funeral expert, who could determine whether the vault was the correct kind for the bayou location that was prone to flooding. However, the church deacons were opposed to such a visit unless the attorney refrained from using her cell phone camera. Although the funeral expert was unable to look inside the empty vault to decide if it was the correct type, McAdams and expert think that the water filled the vault, and put pressure on the top of the vault, which was the supposed to have been sealed.
McAdams and the expert claim that the cement vault that was used to safeguard the casket was improperly sealed and may not have had the requisite number of holes in the bottom to allow water to enter and exit. Without these safeguards, the casket could not remain in the ground in case of a flood. Mr. Lee has filed an injunction requesting that all evidence be unmoved until a complete investigation of the grave site and neighboring graves is performed. He has also filed a claim of negligence against the funeral home and cemetery.
Seeking Legal Advice
If you think that a funeral home or cemetery has engaged in misconduct regarding the handling of your family member or loved one, you should consult an attorney, who will file a claim of negligence on your behalf.
Authored by Roxanne Minott, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law