Bronx family sues cemetery over claims mother's casket opened during funeral

The lawsuit claims the top of the coffin opened amidst the rough handling from workers as they tried to push the casket into a grave that was too small.

News 12 Staff

Mar 16, 2022, 2:43 PM

Updated 822 days ago

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A Bronx family is suing the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn over claims their loved one's casket was opened during burial last June.
Jose Semidey and Awilda Rivera say they watched as cemetery workers tried to force the coffin of their mother, Claribel Oppenheimer, into a grave that was too small at her burial in June last year.
They say workers continued to push and pull the coffin from all sides, with one worker even removing its flowers - leading to cries from the family as the funeral director watched in shock.
The lawsuit claims the top of the coffin opened amidst the rough handling from workers, with Oppenheimer's hands unfolded as workers allegedly ignored the damage to the coffin and kept trying to move it - and the funeral director unable to close the coffin.
Eventually Semidey pleaded with the workers to stop, and the pastor asked the cemetery workers to get the correct tools to remove the coffin.
The workers eventually raised the coffin and moved it to the nearby lawn for approximately an hour, according to the suit. The pastor asked the funeral workers to place the coffin in the hearse due to the heat while they expanded the grave, but work continued without doing so, according to the suit.
Oppenheimer's family waited at the cemetery for three hours while her body was brought back to the funeral home and transferred to a new casket due to damage leaving the coffin bent and unable to fully close, according to the suit.
The case will now go to a jury, which will determine the amount of damages due to the family.
"I am extremely pleased that the judge viewed the videos and ruled that the cemetery violated my clients' right to find solace and comfort in their mother's burial and improperly dealt with her body," says Eric Rothstein, the attorney for Oppenheimer's children. "We look forward to letting a Bronx jury decide how much the cemetery must pay to compensate them for their emotional damages."
News 12 reached out to Evergreens Cemetery for comment.


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