Texas Funeral Home Faces $1Million Lawsuit Over ‘Gross Negligence’ in Handling Deceased’s Body

A family in Texas is suing a funeral home for $1 million after their loved one’s body was left unembalmed and to decompose during the Winter Storm Uri in 2021.

Integrity Funeral Home at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Legacy.com)

Julietta Guerra, the mother of the deceased, is requesting financial compensation from Integrity Funeral Home in south Houston, as mentioned in the lawsuit obtained by Fox 26 Houston, alleging that her son, Edward Silva, was left without embalming for four days.

According to Dolcefino Consulting, Silva passed away on February 9, 2021, and his body was delivered to the funeral home on February 11 from the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office. His memorial service was scheduled for February 17.

Guerra claims that the funeral director, Hilda Rojas, promised to embalm her son and make him look presentable, but the body was not ready for viewing on the agreed-upon date which is February 12. Guerra reported in the lawsuit that she made a call on Feb. 12 to request to view her son’s body but was informed that it was not yet prepared. She encountered the same situation the following day.

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When the storm hit on February 14, the family couldn’t get in touch with anyone from the funeral home, and upon arriving at the business, they discovered that the body was severely decomposed and emitted a terrible smell. During the funeral service, the attendees were covering their noses and retching due to the foul odor.

According to the lawsuit, on February 21, the funeral director informed Guerra that she could view her son’s body and have the funeral on February 23. However, when Guerra arrived with a beautician to prepare Silva’s body, she found it in a severely decomposed state with a strong smell. The funeral home director had allegedly not informed the family beforehand.

The lawsuit described the body as having delicate skin that was falling off during the makeup application, and hair that was falling out during styling. The body had not been sewn up and had a gaping hole in the chest, and there was a strong smell of decay, indicating a lack of embalming.

According to a news release, the lawsuit further claims that the funeral home staff tried to mask the smell with cologne and coffee grounds, but nothing worked. Additionally, they discarded the deceased’s belongings without informing the family, and when questioned, the funeral home director pleaded with the family not to sue, citing job losses if they did. The family’s lawyer called the funeral home’s behavior “egregious conduct” and said that no family should have to endure the desecration of their loved one’s body like the Guerra family did.

The family’s suffering has extended beyond the funeral, with the mother reportedly suffering from mental anguish and depression as a result of the traumatic experience. The lawsuit accuses the funeral home of being “grossly negligent” in its actions and care of the deceased’s body. The case highlights the importance of funeral homes upholding their commitments to bereaved families and taking appropriate care of the deceased’s remains.

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