Family files lawsuit against funeral home

April 8, 2009 4:39:24 PM PDT
A family is outraged and demanding answers. While preparing to say goodbye to their loved one, they discovered the funeral home had cremated their father, a big mistake that has left a family very upset. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Now the family is filing suit.

"We anticipated a wake," said Sam Burnett, whose father's body was cremated. "All our friends and family, and we anticipated a burial."

But just two days after 91-year-old Fred Wood's death in late March, Burnett says he and his siblings received devastating news from Carnes Funeral Home.

"She had just received a call, saying that he had been cremated," said Burnett.

Burnett recounted his story and announced the filing of a $2.7 million lawsuit against Carnes on KCOH Radio on Wednesday.

The spokesperson with Carnes funeral home admits an employee made a mistake and says when the mistake was realized, representatives from Carnes notified the family and apologized.

Burnett says his father's body was mixed up with the body of a woman, something the family's lawyer considers more than a mistake.

Wood's was to have a pauper's burial in the county cemetery.

"It's my absolute opinion that that if this was what I call a retail burial, they would have been more responsible with the body, more responsible and responsive to the family," said Waverly Nolley, the family's lawyer.

Carnes spokesperson says the funeral home was responsive and to make up for the mistake offered to returned woods remains as well as a urn, burial space at any cemetery, a head stone and funeral service free of charge.

Still for Burnett and his siblings, their trust with the funeral home is broken. And the already difficult grieving process has been made even worse.

"How do you lash out? Do you subdue the pain? What do you do?" What is the right way? I don't know," said Burnett. "But it's there."

Harris County contracts with Carne's Funeral Home to handle paupers' burials, and that contract is up for review. The county is investigating this incident.

As for the lawsuit, no one from the funeral home would comment on that directly.

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