Once upon a time, I represented a funeral home on a claim for negligent embalming. At least they had the right body!
The L.A. Times recently reported that Mercedes Adilia Rodriguez had specific instructions for her funeral, including a closed casket and burial in her hometown in Nicaragua, rather than in Southern California. Shortly after her death, the funeral home allegedly admitted it had made a mistake and that Ms. Rodriguez had been confused with someone else. The family sued, alleging in their complaint against the funeral home that Ms. Rodriguez went through another woman’s funeral, in an open casket, dressed in the other woman’s clothing, and buried in a cemetery marked with the other woman’s name. The L.A. Times further reported that the family has alleged that while the funeral home refunded the funeral costs, they claim damages for being “forever haunted by the vision of how a complete stranger’s family and friends mourned, touched, kissed, and cried” over Ms. Rodriguez’s body. While there have probably been other cases like this in the past, we were particularly interested in the online comments offered by the story’s readers. The funeral home accepted responsibility, refunded the cost of the funeral, and apologized. Based on these readers’ comments, the plaintiffs are going to have a tough time making their case.
“This lawsuit is wrong on so many levels. It’s interesting they can put a price on their emotional turmoil.”
“It does make you wonder how bereaved they are if they can manage to file a lawsuit.”
“What a bunch of slimy money-grubbers.”
“Disgusting that the family of this woman would capitalize on this mistake . . . ambulance-chasing scum attorneys.”
“Another moneymaker for bottom-feeding lawyers. This mistake is nothing more than an excuse to get a little extra cash.”
“Go earn money instead of trying to make it on the backs of others.”
The Rodriguez family will probably want to strike most of these readers from any potential jury pool.