BARTLETT, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - A Bartlett funeral home's license has been suspended after the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors found the business mixed up two bodies.
The family of Orbin Holland says he was buried in the wrong place, and it took the funeral home hours to notice. The business has now been ordered to pay fines and cannot facilitate funerals for six months.
Funeral home Director Alfred Tacker says it was an honest mistake that he has never committed before in the 40 plus years he's been in the funeral business. Tacker also says he plans to appeal the board's decision.
"I am absolutely positive that that was not my grandfather in that casket," said Carl Holland Jr.
Holland says the night before the funeral for his grandfather and World War II veteran, Orbin Holland, he received a phone call from Bartlett Funeral Home saying his grandfather was buried in the wrong plot. Carl's sister Laura explained to the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors last month over the phone what they were told about the mix up.
"He had said to me that he had come to prep the remains, the body for my grandfathers funeral the next day and that he was sure the man in front of him was not my grandfather," said Laura Holland, granddaughter of Orbin Holland.
On December 29, 2015, it was Orbin Holland's body that was in the casket for David Phillips' funeral and burial. Joann Phillips says she didn't realize it wasn't her husband being buried.
"It didn't look exactly like my husband but I had been so anxious to see him because I had not see him since the day I left his hospital room," said Joann Phillips, wife of David Phillips.
Funeral home director Al Tacker told the board he's not certain how it happened, but suspects it occurred when they noticed the liner on Phillips casket was damaged and moved him to a different casket.
"We were not doing anything illegal, we were not doing anything wrong. We were not doing anything unethical," Alred Tacker, owner of Bartlett Funeral Home explained.
Holland's body was exhumed and arrived to the funeral home 15 minutes before his funeral was to begin. As for the Phillips family, they were not told of the mix-up until the state began investigating.
"Miss Phillips, she has yet to have a funeral for her spouse," sadi Robert Helms, President of the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers.
Both families received full refunds for their loved ones' funerals, but they are suing the funeral home. Jeff Ward of the Ward Law Firm and Jordan Rogers issued this statement:
"The families were pleased with the outcome of the administrative hearing of the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers and they hope their decision will prevent other families from suffering from such a tragedy."
The trials are scheduled for next year. A spokesperson with the Tennesse Board of Funeral Directors says as for the pre-need contracts that the funeral home already honored, all of those families will be able to get those funds back. Those families may select a different funeral home to provide services so they will not be left in a holding pattern.
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