Class-Action Status Granted To Claims That Detroit Funeral Home Mishandled Remains Of Numerous Fetuses And Babies

On November 5, 2018, a judge granted class-action status for the claims against a Detroit funeral home, Wayne State University, and a local cemetery in which it is alleged that the defendants mishandled the remains of more than 200 babies and fetuses. On October 19, 2018, the Detroit Police Department reportedly removed 63 fetuses (36 fetuses in boxes and an additional 27 fetuses in freezers) from the defendant funeral home. Another Detroit funeral home was raided by Detroit police investigating similar allegations against that funeral home, where the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were found hidden in a ceiling compartment on October 12, 2018, according to reports.

The Michigan  Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (“LARA”) had announced on November 1, 2018: “Due to an increase in complaints and case complexity seen by the Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) mortuary science regulators, Gov. Rick Snyder has formed a new team of multiple state departments to address concerns regarding funeral homes across the state.”

LARA had previously announced on October 19, 2018 the suspension of the mortuary science licenses of the defendant funeral home after its inspectors found “heinous conditions and negligent conduct at the home that included:

  • Three unrefrigerated boxes containing the remains of a total of approximately 36 deceased bodies of fetuses or infants plus a deep freezer containing an unknown number of additional deceased bodies. Some of the deceased had dates of death in 2015.
  • Respondents failed to certify and file death certificates for the dead bodies of the fetuses and infants for whom they assumed custody with the appropriate governmental authority within 72 hours of death.
  • Absent any statutory exception, the failure or refusal to properly supervise the final disposition of a dead human body after agreeing to provide the services of a funeral director within 60 days of receiving the body is a criminal violation under Section 160c of the Michigan Penal Code.
  • Respondents failed to secure permits for removal or burial of dead human bodies before interment or disposal.
  • Respondents obtained possession or embalmed the dead human bodies of the fetuses and infants without first being expressly directed or authorized to do so by a relative of the deceased persons or a person entitled to custody.”

The Detroit funeral home class action lawsuit was filed by a mother who alleged that the remains of her daughter were not handled properly after she requested that her baby’s body be donated to Wayne State University School of Medical for research purposes.

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