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Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier sued over funeral bodies mix-up

May 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A family is suing Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier alleging that the funeral home confused their loved one with another woman.

Adilia Rodriguez's family did all they could to honor her wishes, a closed-casket ceremony in her native Nicaragua and an above-ground burial, according to her religious beliefs.

However, the family says the mortuary switched her body with that of another woman with the last name of Rodriguez, dressing her in the other woman's clothes and accessories and presenting her at the other women's open-casket funeral. Those family members apparently didn't recognize they were mourning over the wrong body.

"I felt like someone had hit me in the stomach with a brick, I was speechless, I went numb," said Adilia Rodriguez's daughter, Marielena Covarrubias. "Every time I think about it, it's shocking, and has been, thus far, the worst experience of my life."

It wasn't until three days later, according to the lawsuit, that the mistake was discovered, at which point Rose Hills dug up Adilia Rodriguez's remains, stripped her of the other woman's clothes, and gave the other family a "do-over funeral."

"Just imagining what the other family was feeling, knowing that the mourning was not their relative, but somebody else," said attorney Eric Dubin.

Further, the Rodriguez family says Rose Hills employees told them they weren't obligated to disclose the mistake, but did so because they wanted to do the right thing.

"The whole thing was treated as another business transaction, almost to the point that, 'Oh well, sorry.' But sorry's just not enough," Covarrubias said.

The family says the lawsuit isn't about the money. They say they want better quality control and practices.

In a statement, Rose Hills said they had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

Rodriguez's body was eventually sent back to Nicaragua to have the ceremony that she had wanted.

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