The family of a woman planning an open-casket funeral for their beloved mother filed a lawsuit against a mortuary in Phoenix after they alleged the funeral home cremated her remains against her wishes.
Family members of Joann Stephens are suing the Eastlake Mortuary over the cremation of the remains of their mother, who died at age 86 in November after suffering from dementia.
“We’ve just been a bag of emotions here,” said her son Jason Glenn in an interview. “We didn’t know how in the world something like that could go wrong. You really don’t know how to respond to something like that.”
The lawsuit, filed on Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleges breach of contract, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The family alleges the conduct of mortuary workers was extreme and outrageous and knew their conduct would inflict severe emotional distress on the family.
They allege mortuary workers “intentionally, recklessly, or negligently mutilated or operated” on her body and prevented its proper internment.
“The above-described conduct of Defendants was despicable and was perpetrated with malice, oppression and/or reckless disregard for the rights and wellbeing of Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit said.
The family said they got an apology and a refund but never got an explanation about how it happened. They got no proof of the identity of the remains, and they’re not sure the ashes they got were hers.
Eastlake Mortuary representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It all went down, the family said, after they paid the mortuary to transport and store Stephens’ remains and prepare her body for viewing. The services included embalming, dressing and hairstyling, makeup, and a casket for viewing.
The mortuary would also arrange for the viewing and memorial service at a nearby church, all according to her wishes.
But things went horribly wrong, the lawsuit said.
When the family showed up at the mortuary to finalize the arrangements for the funeral service, they were told there would be no memorial service. Their mother’s body had been mistakenly cremated the day before.
Family members flew from across the country for the service.
“Stephens was to be buried in accordance with her wishes,” the lawsuit said. “The entire family was devastated.”
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