Family sues funeral home, claim negligence

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 25, 2014

PRINCETON - Family members are suing Cravens-Shire Funeral Home Inc. after they claim it was negligent in its care of a woman during her wake and funeral services.

Peggy L. Lunsford died on July 14, 2012, and Cravens-Shire Funeral Home agreed to embalm her body, according to a complaint filed May 15 in Mercer Circuit Court.

Michael Linkous, an employee of the defendant, met with Claude Ratliff, Lunsford's brother, and informed him that Lunsford was to have a "welfare" funeral, and that the state would only pay for cremation, not burial.

Ratliff told Linkous the family did not desire cremation, but instead "wanted a proper Christian burial service" for Lunsford, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs - which include William Lunsford, Peggy Lunsford's husband; Adam Lunsford, Peggy Lunsford's son; Donna Ratliff; Jennifer Green; Debbie Dix; and Claude Ratliff - all claim Linkous showed Claude Ratliff a coffin made of a very thin material that resembled cardboard and told Claude Ratliff it was the only coffin for which "welfare" would provide reimbursement to the funeral home.

The defendant made a total charge of $3,050 for the funeral and Green's husband borrowed $900 and remitted the amount on July 18, 2012, as a down payment for the funeral service, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim Peggy Lunsford's wake and funeral service were scheduled for Thursday and on that morning, prior to the service, Dix and Tammy Bell went to the funeral home to view Peggy Lunford's body.

The body was dressed in a black blouse that was too large and there was a sheet of plastic between the blouse and the body, according to the suit, and the body was unrecognizable to Dix and Bell.

The plaintiffs claim there was also an odor emanating from Peggy Lunsford that was "putrid and foul and resembled the smell of rotten meat."

Peggy Lunsford's hair was also so stiff and coarse that Dix and Bell were unable to comb or properly dress it with a curling iron and there was blood in her hair, nose and under her fingernails, it is alleged.

The plaintiffs claim the funeral service was very disorganized and Linkous told the family their time was limited and that "if the service lasted longer than the time limit they would be charged an additional fee."

As a direct and proximate result of the conduct of the defendant, the plaintiffs have been unable to achieve closure with respect to the death of their family member, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitve damages. They are being represented by Wayne L. Evans and Eric J. Buckner of Katz, Kantor, Stonestreet & Buckner PLLC.

Mercer Circuit Court case number: 14-C-362

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