$5M lawsuit alleges ‘foul smell’ from beloved’s casket filled parlor

Posted at 7:26 PM, May 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-17 10:27:04-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A lawsuit against a Richmond funeral home alleges a botched handling of their beloved's remains.

CBS 6 News first reported Thursday that when one local family pulled in to Evergreen Cemetery for a funeral, there was no prepared gravesite and no hole to bury their loved one. Neither the funeral home nor the cemetery claimed responsiblity, and pointed the finger at one another. 

Now, a tip from a CBS 6 viewer uncovered a $5 million lawsuit against Chiles Funeral home off Faimount Avenue. A motion has been filed by attorneys representing Renard Harris’ family.

The siblings are suing the funeral home over how it handled their loved ones remains after he suddenly died in 2010.

The suit was filed in 2012 and now a civil jury trial could happen in the coming months, according to attorney Hayden Fisher.

CBS 6 obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which outlines some pretty graphic details. The funeral home is accused of not refrigerating the man’s body in order to properly preserve it.

But first, the lawsuit alleged that the family was not allowed to see the body until a fee was paid. The family alleged that the funeral home picked up the body from the hospital, and that by the time they paid and saw the body, it was in a neglected state.

They said that the medical tubes were still in his nose  and the body was hanging off a board. The family went onto allege that the body wasn't embalmed within 72 hours of death.

It also describes how during Harris’ funeral loved ones were shocked by his appearance and a foul odor coming from his casket. Fisher says what the family went through was devastating.

“It decomposed. They didn’t alert the family and tried to cover it up. Then to embalm him even when he was in a state that he couldn’t be embalmed,” Fisher said.

The lawsuit claims things got worse when Harris’ body was flown to his hometown and was in such bad shape the funeral home there was forced to have closed casket because of the smell.

A family representative said that the smell filled the parlor, and it had to be closed.

The pallbears said that fluid was leaking from the casket.

“The funeral home there said they'd never seen remains in such horrible condition, "  Fisher added.

CBS 6 News investigated and found out attorneys have filed a motion to schedule a two-day jury trial.  The family who lives in Connecticut is seeking more than $5 million.

CBS 6 went to speak with a representative at Chiles Funeral Home. The managing director declined to comment about the lawsuit and directed us to speak with their attorneys.

We reached out to them and are waiting on a return call. In the meantime, Fisher says they’re moving forward, preparing to tell his clients’ story in a courtroom, so a jury can decide.

Fisher says the Harris’ just don’t want what happened to them to happen to any other family.

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