Funeral Industry News

NYC Family Sues Over Funeral Home Horror

August 6, 2009

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NYC Family Sues Over Funeral Home Horror

imageNEW YORK (CBS) – The people who attended 43-year-old Fernando Maldonado’s wake on June 1 said it was a horror show. The viewing at La Paz Funeral Home on East 149th Street near Lincoln Hospital was delayed because of problems preparing the body. When the mourners filed in they weren’t prepared for what they saw. Tears filled William Maldonado Jr.’s eyes as he described the condition of his younger brother’s corpse. “Bleeding,” he said. “There were exposed wires, there were flies going in and out of the wound.” In fact, by the end of the funeral the flies buzzing around the body’s open wound became so persistent the funeral home placed a white veil over the corpse’s head to protect it.

His father, William Maldonado Sr., tried to chime in but was unable.

“I can’t talk about it,” he whispered, breaking down in sobs.

Fernando died in his sleep. He had numerous health problems, including chronic diabetes, but an autopsy was ordered to help pinpoint the exact cause of death. After the procedure The Bronx Medical Examiner shipped the body to La Paz where it was supposed to be prepared for viewing. Evidence of the autopsy, though, is clearly visible in photos taken of the open casket.

There was a hole behind the dead man’s right ear that appeared to be seeping blood. Two witnesses told CBS 2 HD there were blood stains on the pillow and wires that appeared to be autopsy sutures visible holding a loose flap of skin to the back of his hairline. The corpse was a dark bluish color in spots. The ears looked especially discolored.

One of the owners at the La Paz Funeral Home told CBS 2 HD she knew of the lawsuit but wasn’t authorized to comment. She told us simply “We did the best we could.”

The family doesn’t see it that way.

“There were no feelings for the family,” William Jr. told CBS 2 HD. “That’s the last thing we wanted, to see him that way. That’s how we’ll remember him.”

When asked if they would have accepted a closed casket service if they’d known the condition of the body he said, “Absolutely.”

The wake lasted five hours and was interrupted three times as the funeral director tried to address the growing chorus of complaints about the body’s appearance.

The daughter of the deceased, Kristina Maldonado, said the staff at La Paz seemed annoyed at the repeated complaints.

“I’ve been to funerals and wakes a week after the death and they didn’t look like that,” she said.

She claims the funeral director said the body looked the way it did because that’s the way it came from the medical examiner’s office.

William Jr. said it was especially difficult since his brother had died without trauma of any kind.

“Everybody was shocked,” he remembered. “Everybody kept asking ‘was he killed? Was he hit in the head?'”

The family is represented by attorney Michael Lamansoff, who insisted this would’ve been an easy fix for a responsible funeral home.

“What they should have done if they couldn’t prepare the body correctly,” Lamansoff said, “was to tell the family, look we can’t do it.”

The crux of the lawsuit is that funeral homes are bound under long-standing common law to protect grieving families from such horrors. The funeral home ignored repeated requests for a comment.