Wrongful Cremation How Does It Happen?

January 23, 2016


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Wrongful Cremation is Painful for Family Members

When a family member dies, we expect that they will make their way to a funeral home appropriately and be treated properly. Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn’t happen. One unfortunate error that can occur is wrongful cremation.

Requirements For Cremation

When you plan for a cremation, the decedent’s death certificate and permission from the coroner are required. Some states, including Pennsylvania, require a cremation authorization form. This form must be signed by the next of kin, often the spouse.

Avoiding Mistakes

In order to avoid cremating the wrong person, it is critical that funeral homes set proper procedures and follow them. For example, identification is critical.  Once a funeral home takes custody of the decedent, it must properly identify them. This identification process must occur at every step, from the place where the person died, to any facilities where they spend time, all the way to the funeral home and/or crematorium. If there is no identification, the crematory should not cremate the body.

Cases of Wrongful Cremation

A recent case of wrongful cremation involves Mr. Tony Huber. Mr. Huber was wrongfully cremated due to an error in identification. The error involved the failure to follow identity procedures. The problem allegedly began in the hospital’s morgue and followed Mr. Huber all the way to the crematory. Since the cremation, Jennifer Huber, filed a lawsuit against the involved parties.

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Proper identification is key to avoiding a mistaken cremation.

Proper steps for identification are as follows:

  • The body should be placed in a body bag with an identifying tag.
  • The identifying tag remains with the body.
  • The I.D. tag goes into the crematorium with the body.
  • The crematory is labeled as well, so there is no mistake as to which body is in a specific crematorium.
  • Paperwork is completed and the container is tagged with the identification of the person it contains.

In Mr. Huber’s case, the error was only caught after it was too late. You can imagine Mrs. Huber’s grief. Not only had she lost her husband, but she was unable to hold a viewing and follow his wishes.

An even more recent case involves Jorge Hernandez. Only 26 when he died, his family wanted to have an open-casket funeral so they could say goodbye. In Mr. Hernandez’s case, he was confused with another man of the same name. Unfortunately, “the coroner’s office staff did not check the case number.” A completely avoidable error. Mr. Hernandez’s mother was devastated. She felt as if, “her son died twice.”


Wrongful cremation, is, fortunately, not terribly common. When it does occur though, there is no way to restore a loved one’s body to its previous condition. No way to have the kind of funeral the family members wanted. As a result, when negligence occurs, litigation is common. While no amount of money will enable you to follow your loved one’s wishes, compensation may be available to you if you experience negligence on the part of a hospital, funeral home or crematorium. Contact Lowenthal & Abrams, tell us what happened, and we will let you know how we can help.




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