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Lawsuit over wrong body cremation - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A family has filed a lawsuit against a well-known funeral home for allegedly losing the body of a family-member which was then cremated elsewhere leaving them unable to perform funeral rites.

Claimants Charles Williams and Lise Williams on December 2 filed a negligence lawsuit in the High Court against defendants Clarke and Battoo Ltd for the alleged mishandling of the body of their sister, the late Diane Williams, who had died of covid19 complications at St James Medical Complex on December 25, 2021.

The statement of case said that on December 29, 2021 the claimants delivered the deceased's body to the defendants who had held themselves out to the world and to the claimants as competent to co-ordinate all aspects of the funeral including preparation of the body, visitation, and cremation. The claimants paid the funeral home $27,708.

On January 4, 2022 the claimants arrived at the funeral home as arranged beforehand to view their sister's body. Through a glass partition, they viewed a body, whose face was only partly visible.

The document said, "After much persuasion, the claimants were allowed to see the whole body, which was not that of the deceased.

"The attendant, after some time, admitted that an error was made by showing to the claimants a video of the deceased.

"After an hour and a half the defendant could not produce the body of the deceased."

The document said another official of the funeral home claimed the deceased's body had been found but the claimants could not be allowed to view it because the home was not allowed to open the body bag again.

The claimants asked to speak to the manager and after the passage of an hour and a half, they met a man described as the manager who told them that unfortunately the deceased's body had been cremated on January 3, 2022. Against the claimants' protests, the manager said he could not produce the deceased's ashes nor a video of the cremation.

"Due to these matters the claimants were unable to have a funeral or to witness the cremation of the deceased."

As a result, the claimants suffered severe mental anguish, lack of sleep and distress in the extreme.

"The claimants' ordeal has been aggravated by the lack of remorse and callousness on the part of the defendant."

The funeral home stood accused of negligence including a failure to provide a dignified funeral and cremation, failure to investigate the claimants' complaints, and failure to not cause them undue mental distress.

"The defendants' breach of contract and/or negligence aforesaid has robbed the claimants of the opportunity to celebrate the life of their sister."

Aggravating factors resulting in the claimants mental distress allegedly included having to view the wrong body, not having a funeral nor cremation, facing a lack of professionalism and callousness from funeral home staff, enduring the wide publication of their ordeal, dealing with inquiries by media houses, and suffering deleterious effects to their health.

The claimants have claimed aggravated damages for negligence ca