By Michelle Watson, CNN
A New Jersey family says the wrong body was in their mother’s casket, which had to be lifted out of the ground during the funeral service, according to a lawsuit that was filed Monday in Bergen County.
Kummi Kim, Yoonsung Kim, Jungmi Kim Walder and Kummi’s husband, Taichul Kim, are suing Central Funeral Home Of New Jersey, the Blackley Funeral Home and Cremation Services along with employees. CNN has reached out to the Central Funeral Home and the Blackley Funeral Home and Cremation Services for comment.
In the lawsuit, the Kim family says the “mix-up” of their mother’s body “intentionally and negligently inflicted severe emotional distress.”
When their mother, Kyung Ja Kim, died in November, her family reached out to both funeral homes for burial arrangements.
The mother’s body was transported on November 10 and was to be ready for a funeral on November 13 at a church in Leonia, New Jersey, the lawsuit says. Family members “traveled long distances” for the event, according to the suit.
But when Kummi Kim viewed the body of her mother on the morning of November 13, she told a funeral employee the body in the casket “did not appear” to be her mother, the lawsuit alleges.
The employee suggested that Kim “did not appreciate a different appearance after death,” the lawsuit says. Kim “rationalized that the ‘altered appearance’ was attributable to the embalming process and application of heavy mortuary makeup, fake hair and/or some type of filler such as Botox,” the lawsuit says.
Despite initially denying a mix-up, the same employee determined that the person in the casket was not Kyung Ja Kim, but rather the body of another woman, the lawsuit alleges.
The funeral employee did not alert the family of Kyung Ja Kim until hours later, according to the suit.
The employee contacted the cemetery where the burial was taking place and ordered them “to lift the casket back out,” the lawsuit alleges, because there had been a mix-up.
The casket was then taken back to the funeral home.
“This was all done to the surprise of the plaintiffs and without discussion nor explanation,” the suit alleges.
The alleged mistake left the family “psychologically numb and distraught by the above revelation and shocking events at grave site,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit also says that Central Funeral Home employees offered the family a refund for funeral services and fees of about $9,000.
The family is suing for loss of right to interment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and breach of contract — and are asking for $50 million in compensation.
In a news conference Tuesday announcing the lawsuit, Michael J. Maggiano, the family attorney, addressed the sum, saying, “One might say why have you sued for 50 million dollars, that’s a lot of money. We have only one time, one opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one.”
Kummi Kim said the last memory of her mother is now “very painful and disturbing.”
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