An Alabama jury recently found a Bessemer funeral home and two of its employees at fault in the switching of identities of two women prior to family viewings in 2009. The jury awarded the families of the two women nearly $1 million. The jury blamed Brown Service Funeral Home in Bessemer, its owner and a former employee for mistakenly swapping the identification tags on the bodies of Elizabeth Carroll and Esther Eubanks, who had been roommates at the McCalla nursing home. The women died within hours of each other and the bodies were taken to the same funeral home in August 2009. When Mrs. Carroll’s family came for the viewing, they found the body of Mrs. Eubanks in the Carroll casket and wearing Mrs. Carroll’s clothing. It was proved that Mrs. Eubanks weighed twice as much as Mrs. Carroll, who weighed only 90 pounds.
The jury awarded the families $490,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages collectively, for a total of $990,000. After the verdict, the forewoman of the jury said the jurors believed from the beginning of the nine-day trial that the funeral home was at fault and had shown no remorse about the mix-up. Ronald Gault, a Birmingham lawyer, represented the families and did a very good job in the case.
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