An 89-year-old woman in Argentina went to a private hospital complaining of chest pain where she was found to also have shortness of breath. The hospital subsequently declared her dead. The local police reported, “The woman’s daughter went to the hospital at 8:45 a.m., where she met a doctor who informed her of her mother’s death after she suffered from heart failure and shortness of breath for which she was sent to be cremated.” The daughter was given a death certificate for her mother.
During the cremation ceremony, the woman’s 54-year-old daughter noticed that her mother’s body moved, moments before her body was to be pushed into the cremator. The daughter’s screams ceased the cremation just in time, resulting in the woman being returned to the hospital.
Fortunately, the facts of this medical malpractice claim involving cremation are extraordinary rare. More common cremation errors involve cremation of the wrong body, providing the family with the wrong cremated remains, combining remains with the remains of others, or losing cremated remains.
In March 2019, the daughter of an Alabama woman whose cremated remains were lost by a funeral home was awarded $12 million ($2 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages) by an Alabama jury. The daughter had arranged with the funeral home for it to safeguard the remains until she was ready to bring them home. The daughter contacted the funeral home in October 2015 to arrange to obtain her mother’s remains, and was repeatedly told by by the funeral home that the remains would be found. Finally, in December 2016, the general manager of the funeral home told the daughter that her mother’s remains had not been located and no record existed of where they might be. The defendant funeral home was owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), which has approximately 24,000 employees and operates more than 2,000 funeral homes and cemeteries in North America.
In February 2020, a civil lawsuit was filed in Florida by the family of an 11-year-old girl who died as a result of an asthma attack on January 22, 2020. The family’s funeral home malpractice case alleged that the Riviera Beach, Florida funeral home hired to care for her body illegally moved it across state lines and improperly stored it, thereby resulting in the decay of her remains. The family’s lawsuit alleges breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, deceptive and unfair trade practices, and conspiracy, and seeks $10 million in damages.
Most U.S. states take death and funeral services very seriously: for instance, in California, “there is implied in every contract for funeral services a covenant the services will be conducted with dignity and respect toward the family members for whose benefit the services are performed.” Source
If you or your family were the victim of funeral home negligence, you should promptly find a funeral home negligence lawyer near you who can investigate your funeral home negligence claim for you and represent you and/or your family in a lawsuit against a funeral home, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find funeral home malpractice attorneys who may assist you.
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