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$5M lawsuit alleges ‘foul smell’ from beloved’s casket filled parlor

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A lawsuit against a Richmond funeral home alleges a botched handling of their beloved’s remains.

CBS 6 News first reported Thursday that when one local family pulled in to Evergreen Cemetery for a funeral, there was no prepared gravesite and no hole to bury their loved one. Neither the funeral home nor the cemetery claimed responsiblity, and pointed the finger at one another. 

Now, a tip from a CBS 6 viewer uncovered a $5 million lawsuit against Chiles Funeral home off Faimount Avenue. A motion has been filed by attorneys representing Renard Harris’ family.

The siblings are suing the funeral home over how it handled their loved ones remains after he suddenly died in 2010.

The suit was filed in 2012 and now a civil jury trial could happen in the coming months, according to attorney Hayden Fisher.

CBS 6 obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which outlines some pretty graphic details. The funeral home is accused of not refrigerating the man’s body in order to properly preserve it.

But first, the lawsuit alleged that the family was not allowed to see the body until a fee was paid. The family alleged that the funeral home picked up the body from the hospital, and that by the time they paid and saw the body, it was in a neglected state.

They said that the medical tubes were still in his nose  and the body was hanging off a board. The family went onto allege that the body wasn’t embalmed within 72 hours of death.

It also describes how during Harris’ funeral loved ones were shocked by his appearance and a foul odor coming from his casket. Fisher says what the family went through was devastating.

“It decomposed. They didn’t alert the family and tried to cover it up. Then to embalm him even when he was in a state that he couldn’t be embalmed,” Fisher said.

The lawsuit claims things got worse when Harris’ body was flown to his hometown and was in such bad shape the funeral home there was forced to have closed casket because of the smell.

A family representative said that the smell filled the parlor, and it had to be closed.

The pallbears said that fluid was leaking from the casket.

“The funeral home there said they’d never seen remains in such horrible condition, ”  Fisher added.

CBS 6 News investigated and found out attorneys have filed a motion to schedule a two-day jury trial.  The family who lives in Connecticut is seeking more than $5 million.

CBS 6 went to speak with a representative at Chiles Funeral Home. The managing director declined to comment about the lawsuit and directed us to speak with their attorneys.

We reached out to them and are waiting on a return call. In the meantime, Fisher says they’re moving forward, preparing to tell his clients’ story in a courtroom, so a jury can decide.

Fisher says the Harris’ just don’t want what happened to them to happen to any other family.

29 comments

  • Glen Allen

    This is disgusting! I don’t know that it is worth $5 million, but the family should certainly be due something, even if only an all expense paid memorial service and a beautiful grave marker. No family should ever have to experience the horror this family did.

      • SDavis

        I totally agree with you. Chiles Funeral Home should be SHUT DOWN! The situation is very sad and if it happened to someone in my family I would slap a lawsuit on them as well. Years ago, I went to a viewing at Chiles Funeral home and I was shocked at the appearance of their establishment. It needs a good cleaning and updated. I agree that Manning’s does a wonderful job. My family was very pleased at their service and professionalism.

  • Rosa Johnson

    are you kidding? your love on smelling, leaking, decomposing doesn’t warrant a lawsuit?I have done business with Chiles on several occasions and have never had any complaints. although, I thought they could clean the carpet in the parlor before the funeral. however, I would sue them too if this happened to my family. If I am already grieving, this adds insult to injury.

  • slb

    I had the same thing happen with my husbands death and zBliley Funeral Home on Hull Street. They called me for a change of clothing for my Husband. It was horrific!

    • slb

      I did not file a lawsuit. The odor was so horrible I had to go into the restroom and vomit. A horrible event I will never foget.

      • Norma Earls

        I can’t imagine this happening and now to hear it from 2 different families at 2 different funeral homes! That’s a horrific memory that lasts a lifetime. It would have to cause some form of PTSD. A civil suit like Mr. Harris’s family did is a good idea.

  • LP

    I am not the “sue happy” type but if this happened to my loved one you best believe somebody will be paying. If nothing else that would ensure it didn’t happen to anyone else. To think you are already grieving and then have to deal with this. Beyond devastating. The people that work there should treat everyone they deal with as if it’s one of their own family members.

  • Debra

    This place should be shut down. Never to be able to operate again……all of the workers. The family should be given all their money back they gave and even more for the lack of respect.

    • Morticia

      The workers should not be held responsible for what the owner/manager requires them to do. Shame on you.

  • Lynn

    That’s horrible! If the same thing had happened to my Dad whom I buried last summer, I would have sued too. There is no excuse for the lack of respect for the deceased and the deceased’s family.

  • terese henderson

    There are so many variables in this situation. I work in a funeral home and have seen many things that make me scratch my head, but never in our error. How long did the family wait to contact the funeral home to make arrangements after their loved one’s passing? We have had families who waited until 5 or 6 days after the passing of their loved one. Did the place of death happen in a facility that has proper refrigeration while awaiting the funeral director’s removal. In some cases here, if a patient dies in a nursing home, they don’t always have a refrigerated morgue. If the decedent died at home and was not discovered right away the natural process begins no matter what. Embalming doesn’t stop the process of decomposition, it just slows it down. Nature is a force all it’s own and there are just some things a funeral director cannot plan for, or fix once a certain amount of time has passed. There really isn’t enough information here to make a determination as to who is really at fault. I am sure the attorney’s for both sides, however, will investigate and all facts will be brought to light. I am sorry the family had such an unpleasant experience, but sometime I know they point the finger at someone else even when it was their own taking of too much time to shop around or make decisions about embalming or not embalming. Sad all around, either way.

    • Morticia

      AMEN!!! Families are quick to blame others for what is sometimes their fault afterall (if they wait to contact the FH). Also, sometimes, the bodies have Clostridium perfringens, which speeds up the decomposition process and no matter what you do to preserve it, is all for naught.

  • Fd that knows the job

    Since when do reporters or unlicensed lay people have the education to back up the comments regarding what the funeral home did or didn’t do? Is an unlicensed person knowledgable about the body’s ability to be embalmed?
    There are many factors that go into the preservation of a deceased individual. I am not privy to the details of this case, but if there was neglect or unethical behavior then the funeral home should pay; however many of the people that have commented don’t have the education or details of the case to comment. Please don’t jump down on the people that do everything they can to help others in need. Funeral directors get a bad name for two reasons: fellow funeral directors acting badly and the public falsely causing and running with the rumors. It IS sad and unfortunate, this case at hand, however if you don’t know what you are talking about please keep quiet.

  • Teri

    Finally someone defending the funeral director. I have doubts about the story as no airline will accept an urn embalmed body to fly. The article states that they flew the body to his home town. Something wrong there.

  • Brian

    So, a funeral home should prepare a body when a family hasn’t paid, then not have embalmed days later when they did?

    Weird how everyone is an expert thanatologist.

    Where’d you get your degree?

  • JaeDean

    I think we need to educate the general public about what happens to a body after it dies.
    “It decomposed and they didn’t alert the family” So now I’m supposed to call the family and tell them Oh hey by the way your loved one is decomposing just in case you didn’t already know they were dead.
    “Then to emblam him when he was in a state where he couldn’t be embalmed”
    Well, that sounds like there was a time frame where the family didn’t give the permission to embalm. We cannot start until we at LEAST get a verbal consent.
    If the family took their sweet time figuring stuff out no amount of refrigeration can stop the NATURAL process of decomp. Take a look inside your refrigerator, do your fruits and vegetables last forever?
    PS: dead things tend to smell

  • A.

    Isn’t this the same funeral home they just did a story on a couple days ago about the grave not being dug when they arrived and when the funeral director came to mark the grave he couldn’t find it?

  • Dave

    Yes I must agree 100% with what my other funeral industry colleagues are saying here, as I myself have worked and done almost all aspects within the funeral business.
    This is truly sad what has happened to this family, but as my colleagues have stated there are so many factors to what may or may not have happened in this case, unfortunately now will be up to the courts and legal teams to figure out now.
    But I’ve even come across very confused family members while they are grieveing over a loved one, this includes member of my own family.
    As they have been told things and confused by grief, mixed dates up and misunderstood information regarding the deceased of the funeral,
    And swear black and blue that’s what they were told, even after showing them documents given to them before the deceased entered the funeral directors care.
    And all things smell, as next time you go to the toilet, use your bowels,
    Remember all those odors remain within your body once your dead.
    Then nature sometimes moves faster on some of us than others, and as other have said, there are many reason this person may have decomposed in this manner, but some of the public just follow the gossip trail and not the facts in front of them.

    • Larry

      I think this case is very sad. How, I do not think this was the first time that Chiles Funeral has screwed up. So colleagues it nice to defend your one another but it is very cleary that the funeral home was wrong. If you go to the Board of Funeral Home and directors you will see for yourself that he was guilty. Sorry to the fans of Chiles Funeral home. Even the deceased deserves dignity and respect. Kudo’s for Mannings funeral home for always does a wonderful job. Might I had how professional they are.

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