Apr 8, 2021
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting virtually every corner of the globe, the death toll in the U.S. has officially exceeded 550,000. Accordingly, funeral homes are experiencing unprecedented demand, with families scrambling to make accommodations for lost loved ones under trying circumstances. As funeral homes have become increasingly overwhelmed, troubling reports of general human error as well as negligence and intentional abuse have surfaced.
Funeral homes accept a sacred responsibility when handling the remains of our loved ones. When errors are made or funeral home negligence and abuse occurs intentionally, families deserve justice, and to be properly compensated for any financial losses or pain and suffering endured through such an ordeal. Let’s take a look at some examples of funeral home abuse and negligence, discuss your rights and legal options, and review the steps required to file a successful claim.
In July 2017, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) announced it had suspended the license of Swanson Funeral Home, Inc. and revoked the individual mortuary science license of its manager, O’Neil D. Swanson, II. The suspensions were due to multiple violations. Some of those violations identified by LARA included:
In February 2015, a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of three women’s corpses by a morgue attendant was settled for approximately $800,000 (not including non-economic damages that would be agreed upon at a later date). The families of the three victims filed a civil lawsuit against county officials, alleging negligent supervision of the rogue employee and resulting emotional distress.
Kenneth Douglas, the former morgue attendant, was convicted in 2009 of violating corpses in 1982 and 1991. He was sentenced to six years in prison. At the time the settlement with the county was reached, legal representatives for the families confirmed they would also be pursuing a $2.45 million damages case against Douglas.
In a 2014 deposition, Douglas admitted to having sex with as many as 100 corpses, alleging he was often drunk or high on crack while committing the abuse.
In July 2014, a landlord reportedly discovered eight bodies at the Johnson Family Mortuary in Fort Worth, Texas. Shortly after evicting business operator, Dondre Johnson, the landlord found the neglected remains while inspecting the building.
Johnson had left the bodies of six adults on gurneys in unrefrigerated rooms. Bodily fluids from the corpses reportedly dripped into buckets. Investigators also found two bodies – an infant that had been dead for two years and another child – in neglected caskets. The small bodies had reportedly melted from the Texas summer heat.
Authorities were unable to identify all the bodies due to extensive deterioration. Families had entrusted Johnson and his wife with either cremating or burying the bodies, but their wishes were never carried out (despite paying for these services). The courts convicted Johnson on multiple counts of theft and abuse of a corpse. He received a two-year prison sentence.
The family whose loved one was one of the eight bodies found at the abandoned mortuary filed a civil lawsuit in 2014 seeking over $1 million in damages. The suit stated it was the decedent’s “express desire to be cremated, as she found the idea of decomposition of the body and all of the things associated with that revolting and repellent.”
In January 2015, an inspection into the Arkansas Funeral Care LLC led to the discovery of unspeakable misconduct. A former employee reportedly notified the police of the funeral parlor’s abuse of multiple corpses. Authorities found bodies stacked on top of one another inside the funeral home. Owners Leroy and Rod Wood had also reportedly left un-embalmed bodies outside of the cooler for extended periods of time.
The owners, as well as the funeral director, claimed the business was overwhelmed with an unusual amount of deaths that month. The Pulaski County Coroner and officials from the state crime laboratory discovered and later removed 31 neglected corpses and 22 sets of cremated remains from inside the funeral home. The courts charged Arkansas Funeral Care LLC with 13 abuse of a corpse counts and a fine of $50,000.
In 2017, the convicted mortuary directors were barred from operating another funeral business in Arkansas and ordered to pay restitution to affected families as part of a settlement agreement with the state attorney general’s office.
These are but a few examples of funeral home abuse and negligence crimes that have made headlines in recent years. Other stories have involved various instances of malfeasance, such as:
Funeral home negligence can be the result of incompetence, greed, corruption/deception, and even sexual perversions. If you were harmed by a funeral home’s negligence or ill will, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation for various types of damages, such as: emotional or psychological trauma, funeral and burial expenses, reduced quality of life, and other miscellaneous damages.
The best way to recover damages in a funeral home abuse or negligence case is through a civil lawsuit with an experienced funeral abuse lawyer from Dordulian Law Group.
Proving liability in a California funeral home abuse or neglect case generally involves four distinct elements:
At Dordulian Law Group, we’ve successfully handled funeral home abuse and negligence cases for decades, helping clients obtain justice and recover the financial damages awards they deserve.
Our team of experienced and dedicated funeral home attorneys and investigators features a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, and a retired LAPD Detective Supervisor, Moses Castillo. Together, Dordulian and Castillo ensure every funeral home abuse and negligence case is handled properly from start to finish – with a full investigation and winning legal strategy to help ensure a maximum financial damages award is recovered.
When you’ve experienced the unfortunate loss of a loved one, the last thing you need is added stress or trauma via the actions of a negligent or nefarious funeral home. Funeral homes have an obligation to you and your family, and breaching your trust in any way is likely grounds for a civil lawsuit.
Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.
To learn more about funeral home abuse and negligence and your legal options, contact one of our skilled and committed team members today. Dordulian Law Group is California’s premier funeral home abuse and negligence firm serving clients in need throughout the state. We’re here to answer any questions you have 24/7 and, as always, our consultations are free.
Additionally, you never have to worry about upfront costs or hidden fees. With DLG, you won’t pay a penny until we recover financial compensation for you. To date, we’ve secured over $100 million in settlements and verdicts for injured victims. We’re ready to fight for you and win your funeral home abuse or negligence case.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.