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Funeral Home Buries Wrong Woman in Mix-Up

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

A funeral is meant to be a time for loved ones to reflect and collectively mourn a death. For the family of Sylvia Wallace, a funeral home mix-up in Texas had them mourning a stranger.

A veteran of the business for over 20 years, Falls Funeral Home director Rick Shaffer assumed the responsibility of the tragic mishap.

Wallace had always wanted to be buried in Cobb County, Georgia, next to her mother, reports The Times Record. When she passed away at a nursing home facility in Texas, her children, James Elser and Shanon Aradillas, contacted the Falls Funeral Home to make arrangements for her body to be embalmed and sent in a pink casket of their choosing to Georgia.

The mix-up occurred because another family had chosen the same pink casket, with their funeral set for the afternoon the same day. A funeral home employee mistakenly put Wallace's remains in the pink casket, and sent the other remains to Georgia.

Shaffer realized the mistake the same day, but had trouble getting a hold of Elser and Aradillas, according to The Times Record.

After learning of the news, Elser and Aradillas quickly agreed to switch the remains. Their second reaction was to consult an attorney.

One thought is that Elser and Aradillas might have a strong case of negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress. The most difficult element to prove for their case might be the "intent" requirement, since it seems that the funeral home did not intend to switch the remains. The question then depends on whether or not their mistake was reckless, or if it was negligent.

Whether or not Elser and Aradillas suffered severe emotional distress is open to interpretation. Elser and Aradillas opened the exhumed casket to make sure the remains were their mother's - and likely encountered a grisly scene. While Shaffer insists that the remains were properly embalmed, Elser and Aradillas disagree and believe their mother's remains were too badly decomposed to have been embalmed, reports The Times Record.

Seeing a loved one's remains, badly decomposed, is likely a case of severe emotional distress.

For Sylvia Wallace, a funeral with her family has finally been given. May she finally rest in peace.

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