Family sues New Jersey funeral home for $50 million after they put the WRONG body on display
A grieving family is suing a New Jersey funeral home for displaying the wrong body in their mother’s coffin and blaming her aberrant appearance on the work of embalmers.
The family of Kyung Ja Kim, 93, claims that another woman with the same last name was dressed in her clothes and placed in her coffin after her death in November last year.
Kyung Ja’s daughter, Kummi Kim, said she knew right away that the woman in the coffin was not her mother because she “looked so much younger,” but funeral home officials insisted no mistake had been made.
It wasn’t until the coffin was halfway to Kyung Ja’s grave that staff warned the family that the body of Whaja Kim, 70, had been placed in the coffin instead.
Kyung Ja’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Central Funeral Home of New Jersey and Blackley Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Inc. from Ridgefield.
The lawsuit alleges that the mix-up was an act of “negligence” and could have been avoided if the funeral home had properly marked the bodies, following standard protocol.
The family of Kyung Ja Kim, 93, claims that another woman with the same last name was dressed in her clothes and placed in her coffin after her death in November last year. Kyung Ja is pictured at age 80
The Blackley Funeral home in Ridgefield, New Jersey faces $50 million lawsuit after allegedly placing the wrong body in a coffin
Kyung Ja died in November 2021 and was expected to have a traditional Korean funeral at the Promise Church in Leonia, which her family said she helped set up.
Her body was taken to the funeral home three days before the memorial mass for preparations. When Kummi examined the body before the ceremony, she told the house that it did not appear to be her mother.
“When she opened the coffin at church, I told them this isn’t my mother, she looked so much younger,” Kummi said. ABC 7.
Funeral director Haemin Gina Chong told her that the “altered appearance” was the result of the embalming process, which featured heavy morgue makeup, fake hair, and filler such as Botox.
Chong “responded with a very clear expression of denial and dismay at the question of whether Kummi did not appreciate a different appearance after death,” the lawsuit said.
The suit, which was reviewed by NJ.comclaims the funeral home mixed up the bodies and placed Kyung Ja’s dentures under Whaja’s pillow.
It wasn’t until the coffin was halfway to Kyung Ja’s grave that staff warned the family that the body of Whaja Kim, 70, had been placed in the coffin instead. The Kim family is pictured at what should have been Kyung Ja’s funeral
While Kyung Ja’s church service was in progress, Chong texted Whaja’s daughter requesting multiple photos of her late mother.
After mass—when the funeral procession had begun—she called for Kummi and offered to turn the procession around if she “wasn’t sure” that Kyung Ja’s body was in the coffin.
Kummi was reportedly “confused and surprised” by Chong’s offer and told her to continue the procession to the cemetery, where the funeral service was being held.
Kyung Ja’s loved ones had thrown spades of dirt on her coffin and it was thrown into the ground when Chong ordered the gravediggers to lift the coffin again and place it in the hearse.
“She ran away from the cemetery at that moment without saying a word,” Kummi told the TV station. “People just saw me collapse. Nobody knew exactly what was going on and they found out when I collapsed.’
The lawsuit alleges that the scene at the cemetery left mourners feeling shocked, confused and “mentally numb.”
Kyung Ja’s daughter, Kummi Kim (pictured), said she knew right away that the woman in the coffin wasn’t her mother because she “looked so much younger,” but funeral home officials insisted no mistake had been made
The funeral home offered to refund the $9,000 the Kim family paid for funeral expenses, but the family wants $50 million instead. Kyung Ja is pictured with her loved ones in an undated photo
Later that day, Chong called the family to explain that they had arranged an emergency service for Kyung Ja the next day. However, the Promise Church was not available, so the service would be held at the funeral home.
“She said she would get my mom ready soon and we’d have her that afternoon, but it was pouring rain, so it had to be postponed until Sunday,” Kummi said, explaining that she had been ridden due to the lack of a proper memorial. with ‘guilt, shame and humiliation.’
Funeral director Haemin Gina Chong told Kummi that the “altered appearance” was the result of the embalming process, which featured heavy makeup for the morgue, fake hair, and filler like Botox.
“We couldn’t have a real church service. No other friends or church members could come. She doesn’t wish that everything could be done in the Church and say goodbye to friends and Church members properly.”
The family notes that the failed memorial, their last memory of Kyung Ja, was a “smudge” that “we can’t erase now.”
“My mother has had a long life and she wanted her funeral to be a celebration,” Kummi said at a recent press conference. “Her last wish was for everything to be in the church, the right way. So I feel very guilty that we couldn’t give her her last wish.’
Kummi, who spoke to Whaja’s family shortly after the ordeal, claims that the other family who suffered from the confusion were also unable to say a proper goodbye.
“They couldn’t open the coffin for the other family because it had already rotted,” she said. ‘We are really two victims. Not just my mother, but the other victim as well.’
The lawsuit is seeking $50 million for breach of contract, negligence, emotional distress and battery as a result of the “outrageous and mishandling” of Kyung Ja’s body. She is pictured with her family at her 88th birthday party
Kim’s family attorney, Michael Maggiano, said the funeral home has offered to refund the $9,000 the family paid for funeral expenses, but the family wants more.
The lawsuit is seeking $50 million for breach of contract, negligence, emotional distress and battery as a result of the “outrageous and mishandling” of Kyung Ja’s body.
“This was essentially a complete system failure. Was it negligence? Sure,’ said Maggiano. “There should have been identification so you don’t confuse one Kim with another.”
The family says they are not looking for money, but for change.
“Things like this should never happen again,” said Kummi’s husband, Taichul Kim.
All the money won from the lawsuit will be donated to two Korean churches where Kyung Ja actively participated in her honor.