Can You Sue A Funeral Home? Should You?

Has a funeral home mishandled some aspect of your loved one's final journey? Families and loved ones rely on funeral homes to care for a most precious cargo—personal remains. But what happens if the organization fails in that duty? Here's what you need to know about suing a funeral home for damages. 

Why Might Families Sue?

The specific mistreatment of remains that generates a lawsuit varies in each circumstance. But it's important to know that you may have a case if a funeral home:

  • Damages a body

  • Delivers the wrong remains

  • Loses a body

  • Steals personal items

  • Wrongly cremates a body

  • Fails to embalm or store a body correctly

  • Takes advantage of the family

  • Molests a body

  • Mixes ashes or bodies in graves

Some of these are extremely traumatizing for family and friends, some can result in financial losses, and many can be both. 

Who Can Sue a Funeral Home? 

In general, there are three parties who may have standing to sue a funeral home in civil court. 

The first is the estate. The remains of a deceased person are part of the estate, for which a personal representative is responsible. In addition, immediate family members often have standing based on their emotional attachment to the person. But in some cases, another party actually pays for the funeral. Their financial losses may give them standing. 

What Must You Prove?

As with most civil lawsuits, a funeral home lawsuit case has four components. The first is that the defendant (the funeral home) had a duty of care. This is usually easy to prove, as the funeral home is given control of the remains and is paid to provide a service. 

The second element is that they breached that duty of care. Depending on the damage done, this may be more difficult. If you believe someone stole a valuable piece of jewelry, for example, you may have to prove that to the court's satisfaction. On the other hand, damage from dropping a body could be easy to show. 

Third, this breach must have caused harm. Temporarily losing the ashes of a loved one may be a breach by the funeral home, but it may not have caused harm if the loss was very short. However, a long delay may cause both financial and emotional harm. 

Finally, these financial and/or emotional losses must be proven. If the funeral home failed to provide services for which it was paid, the financial loss is demonstrable. However, the trauma of having to scrape up money and plan a second service could also create emotional losses. 

Where Should You Start?

Has your loved one or your family been mistreated by a funeral home? Meet with an attorney today to learn more about the ways that a civil litigation case may help restore dignity, emotional stability, and financial losses.