Lost body, wrong corpse at viewing leads to lawsuit

COLUMBUS, Ohio (KRON/AP) — Family members say an Ohio funeral home displayed the wrong corpse during a private viewing, after misplacing the body of their loved one.

Now, the family is taking legal action and has filed a lawsuit against Smoot Funeral Services, which works out of Edwards Funeral Home in Columbus. The suit seeks more than $25,000 in both compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit says Nivina Cargill’s family arrived at the funeral home July 1 to find that her body had been misplaced and another body dressed in her clothes had been substituted.

Family members have “lost sleep and suffered nightmares as a result of the defendants’ conduct,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Smoot’s funeral service director, Monique Smoot, tried to persuade the family that the corpse in the casket was Cargill’s and didn’t acknowledge the mistake until she eventually checked the name tag on the corpse.

Monique Smoot, who is also named as a defendant, didn’t immediately return a call Friday. A message also was left at Edwards Funeral Service Inc., which is also named as a defendant.

Cargill’s sister, Pamela Merritt, said the family waited five hours for staff to find Cargill’s body and prepare it, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

“Our whole concern is, we don’t want this to happen to another family,” Merritt told the Dispatch on Thursday.

Merritt couldn’t be reached for additional comment Friday. A Columbus telephone number listed in that name was no longer in service.

The lawsuit says the 52-year-old Cargill died June 21 of cardiac arrest.

“Defendants destroyed the clothing of the late Nivina Cargill while attempting to put the clothes on the wrong corpse,” the lawsuit states.

Cargill’s makeup was applied in a sloppy and haphazard manner, the lawsuit also states.

As a result of the defendants’ “negligent, reckless, wanton, willful and/or intentional conduct,” the family will continue to suffer “serious and irreparable emotional and psychological distress,” according to the lawsuit.

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