January 28, 2015 | Two Miller County residents recently filed against Arkansas Funeral Care, located in Jacksonville, Arkansas, and its owner, LeRoy Wood. The lawsuit claims the funeral home failed to properly prepare, preserve, and cremate the remains of their mother, Melinda Rowell, stated to the complaint filed in Miller County. Rowell was a resident of Texarkana, Arkansas at the time of her death.
Before Rowell’s death, she executed an advanced directive stating that she wanted her remains to be cremated.
After her death, her two sons contacted Arkansas Funeral Care because of its proximity to Little Rock, where Rowell passed away. At the time of entering into the contract, the funeral home stated that the process would not begin until the following week because they were very busy.
Nine days after Rowell passed away, one of her sons was contacted by the State of Arkansas. He was informed that the cremation “process had not been started”, and he would need to find another funeral home to perform her cremation, stated the complaint.
According to the complaint, the sons “experienced severe emotional distress and grief” after learning the following:
Following their contact with authorities from the State of Arkansas, Plaintiffs have since learned, through various media reports, that 31 bodies, including their mother’s remains, were seized by authorities on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at Defendant Arkansas Funeral Care. These same media reports also indicate that, since an investigation by authorities beginning on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, Defendant Arkansas Funeral Care had left bodies at its facility unrefrigerated and not embalmed during that period and that at least one body was allowed to deteriorate into “an obvious state of decomposition.”
On January 21, 2015, Arkansas Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors temporary suspended the license of the owner and the funeral home, which prevents the funeral home from selling prepaid funeral benefits. Allen Kerr, the Arkansas Insurance Commissioner states that, “I directed my staff to take possession of all prepaid funeral benefits contracts and account records of Arkansas Funeral Care this morning”.
The Arkansas Insurance Department said that “[f]amilies who have pending death claims or who may have a death claim on or before February 11, 2015, should contact the Department’s Prepaid Funeral Benefits staff so they can assist in facilitating the location of a substitute funeral provider for or on behalf of the consumer.”
A hearing for consideration of the permanent revocation of Arkansas Funeral Care’s permit to engage in the selling of prepaid funeral benefits contracts is set for 10:00 a.m. on February 11, 2015, at the Arkansas Insurance Department, 1200 West Third Street in Little Rock. Also to be considered at this hearing are the plans of the business to transfer outstanding contracts to available substitute providers.
Jonathan Prazak, of Boyd Prazak, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Chris Rowell and Justin Rowell, sons of Melinda Rowell.
The lawsuit alleges several violations against the funeral home and individuals such as negligence, outrage, unlawful mutilation of human remains, and negligent supervision.
Plaintiffs requested damages of an “undetermined amount to be proven at trial” damages, which include “mental anguish in the past, mental anguish in the future, severe emotional distress in the past, severe emotional distress in the future, depression, and anxiety. Plaintiffs further ask for exemplary damages grossly negligent “activities taking place at Arkansas Funeral Care,” stated the complaint.
“Due to all Defendants’ conscious indifference towards individuals in the general public, like the Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs request exemplary damages, in an amount deemed appropriate by the Court, to punish Defendants and to prevent others from engaging in similar behavior in the future,” stated the complaint.