The 11 children of an 87-year-old woman who died of COVID-19 have accused a Long Island funeral home and its director of negligence in an $88 million lawsuit after it buried the wrong person.
Sadie Williams died Aug. 17, but her children made arrangements beforehand with the Joseph A. Slinger-Hasgill Funeral Home in Amityville so she could be buried next to her husband quickly in accordance with Muslim tradition, WABC reported, citing the family’s lawyer, Phil Rizzuto.
The couple’s 11 children say they knew there was a problem all along.
“I stood at the top of the steps with Joe Slinger and said, ‘That’s not my mother.’ He said, ‘Of course it is,’” Salimah Lee said, according to the station. “I got to the coffin, first thing I noticed, that’s not my mother and she was wearing a child’s watch.”
Slinger-Hasgill insisted the embalming process had dramatically altered the body, according to the lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Queens and seeking $33,025,000 in compensatory damages and $55 million in punitive damages.
“It is unconscionable, how such egregious actions can take place,” Rizzuto said in a statement Thursday. “The most disturbing thing about this case is that the family pointed out the error and Mr. Slinger-Hasgill refused to even consider the possibility of making a mistake.”
On Aug. 20, a Muslim service was held for Williams using the wrong corpse, which was buried the following day at the Pinelawn Memorial Cemetery in Farmingdale, according to the lawsuit.
The director later called Lee and told her about the mix-up, Rizzuto reportedly said.
The lawsuit accuses Slinger-Hasgill and his business of “negligent infliction of emotional distress” for the failure “to properly identify decedent’s remains; in abandoning, neglecting, abusing or failing to treat with dignity and respect the decedent.”
It also says the funeral home failed to bury Williams “in a timely manner in accordance with Muslim law.”
The funeral home had “no comment” when reached by the station about the lawsuit.