FORT LEE, New Jersey (WABC) — A family is suing a funeral home after it was revealed mid-ceremony that their loved one was not the person in the casket.
The family of 93-year-old Kyung Ja Kim has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Central Funeral Home of New Jersey and Blackley Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Inc. in Ridgefield for placing another woman’s body in their mother’s casket.
Kyung Ja died in November 2021 and her body was taken by the funeral home to prepare for a traditional Korean funeral to be held three days later.
The service was to be held at Promise Church in Leonia, New Jersey, a church her family says she helped found.
But daughter Kummi Kim noticed something was wrong right away.
“At the church, when she opened the casket, I told them it wasn’t my mother, she looked much younger,” said daughter Kummi Kim.
The funeral home even dressed the other woman in Kyung Ja’s clothes, according to the lawsuit.
But the undertaker assured Kim it was her mother and the ceremony went ahead.
It wasn’t until the casket was halfway inside the burial site in Valhalla, New York, that funeral home employees alerted the family to their mistake.
“Without another word, she ran from the cemetery at that very moment,” Kummi said. “People just saw me collapse. Nobody was really sure what was going on and they found out when I collapsed.”
Kummi said because of the mistake, they were unable to give her mother the proper service she wanted and they feel guilty for the rushed service the following day.
“She said she would prepare my mother soon and we wanted her that afternoon, but the pouring rain so it had to be postponed until Sunday,” Kummi said. “We couldn’t have a real service. No other friends or church members could come. That’s not her wish, she wanted everything to be done in the church and say goodbye the right way to friends and church members.”
Kummi said after the ordeal, they reached out to the family of the woman who was in her mother’s casket.
“They couldn’t do an open casket for the other family because she had already started to decay,” Kummi said. “We really are two victims. Not just my mother, but the other victim.”
Kyung Ja’s family said any money they win in the lawsuit will be donated to the church their mother attended in her honor.
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