Family Sues Funeral Home for $50 Million, Claiming They Realized Mid-Burial the Wrong Body was in Casket

face of Kyung Ja Kim
A New Jersey family is suing a funeral home for allegedly placing the wrong body in the casket.Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, P.C.

“How sad it is, guilty, shameful, humiliation… We never can get rid of it,” Kummi Kim told WABC.

just as a New Jersey family was lowering the casket of their loved one into the ground, it was brought back up, shocking members of the family, who say the wrong body was in the casket, according to a lawsuit,

Family members of 93-year-old Kyung Ja Kim, Kummi Kim, Yoonsung Kim, Jungmi Kim Walder, and Kummi's husband, Taichul Kim, are suing Central Funeral Home of New Jersey, and the Blackley Funeral Home and Cremation Services for $50 million.

The lawsuit states that the defendants "intentionally and negligently inflicted severe emotional distress" upon the Kim family.

“The last memory of her was very painful and disturbing and horrible,” the daughter, Kummi Kim, told WABC.

Kyung Ja Kim passed away on Nov. 10, 2021, in Englewood Cliffs, the lawsuit says. According to the suit, the mother’s body was transported later on Nov. 10 to prepare for the Nov. 13 funeral at a church in Leonia, New Jersey.

“Many family members traveled long distances to celebrate the passing of the [Kyung Ja Kim] in the congregation that she helped to establish and participated in over many years,” the lawsuit states.

On the morning of November 13, however, upon viewing to the body in the casket, Kummi Kim allegedly told a funeral director that the body in the casket "did not appear" to be her mother, according to the lawsuit.

The employee implied that Kummi "did not appreciate a different appearance after death," the lawsuit says, and that Kummi then "rationalized that the 'altered appearance' was attributable to the embalming process and application of heavy mortuary makeup, fake hair and/or some type of filler such as Botox.”

The family traveled to Valhalla, New York, after the church service for the burial.

The lawsuit alleges that five minutes after cemetery employees began to lower the casket into the plot, the funeral home employee showed a photo of a body to Kummi Kim, who Kummi Kim confirmed was her mother, which was still at the funeral home.

Because of the mix-up, the employee alerted the cemetery to "pull the casket back out,” according to the suit, and the casket was returned to the funeral home.

"This was all done to the surprise of the [family] and without discussion nor explanation," the lawsuit states.

The alleged confusion over the bodies left family members "psychologically numb and distraught by the above revelation and shocking events at grave site," according to the lawsuit.

“How sad it is, guilty, shameful, humiliation… We never can get rid of it,” Kummi Kim told WABC.

Employees of Central Funeral Home allegedly offered the family a $9,000 reimbursement for funeral services and costs, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims loss of the right to interment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, and breach of contract. The lawsuit totals $50 million.

According to the lawsuit, the woman in the casket was discovered to be 20 years younger than Kyung Ja Kim. In addition, the deceased had her own teeth, unlike Kyung Ja Kim who had dentures. 

The funeral home staff allegedly put the dentures under the pillow of the casket with the wrong body inside it "to add to the shock and disgust over the mishandling of the decedent's body," according to the lawsuit.

Kyung Ja Kim’s burial ended up being a day later without the church service the family hoped for, and without several family members as the travel plans of many who traveled a long distance for the memorial service did not permit staying another day.

"I feel very sad and angry that we couldn't accomplish her final wish, that she wanted to say bye to us at the church," Kummi Kim, Kyung Ja Kim's daughter, told News 4 New York.

Inside Edition Digital reached out to the funeral homes, but they have not responded to our requests for comment.

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