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It's not every day that a funeral home preps the wrong body, but it has been known to happen. And unfortunately, it happened to the family of Richard Tkacik in November 2011.
Marlene Tkacik and her daughters Pamela Clark and Bridget Lowery have filed a Pennsylvania lawsuit against Harris Funeral Home and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. They're asking for at least $50,000 in emotional distress damages to compensate them for the chaos that ensued after learning that the funeral home had picked up the wrong body from the hospital.
The story begins on November 23, when the family contracted with Harris Funeral Home to handle the arrangements for Richard Tkacik's funeral. When the family arrived for the viewing on November 25, the Tribune-Democrat reports they were confronted with a glaring error.
Though the man in the casket was wearing Richard's clothing, it was not Richard.
After verifying that the body was indeed not their husband and father, the family went on a search for the body. They checked other funeral homes and crematoriums, but according to the paper, it had never left Conemaugh Memorial.
The business of transferring bodies is quite unique and will play a big part in the outcome of this lawsuit. Hospital staff is responsible for bagging and tagging bodies, according to Joe Marsaglia, a dean at the Pennsylvania Institute of Mortuary Science. Morticians take what the hospital gives them -- as long as the tag matches, they have "no way of knowing differently."
If Conemaugh Memorial tagged the wrong body, then it is likely solely responsible for the mishap. But if Harris Funeral Home grabbed the wrong body, then its negligence contributed to the mix-up.