A South Shore funeral home was ordered Tuesday to pay more than $900,000 in damages after being held liable for mishandling remains.
Seven families claimed in a lawsuit filed in February in Cook County Circuit Court that their relatives' bodies were improperly stored at Carter Funeral Chapels. Investigators found the funeral home operated for months without heat or electricity and that the owner, Henry Carter III, was not a licensed funeral director or embalmer.
Each plaintiff was awarded damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, deceptive practices and fraud, totaling $937,950.
Tamika Richardson, the original plaintiff in the suit, claimed she suffered emotional distress after learning her mother's body was mishandled at Carter Funeral Chapels at 2100 E. 75th Street.
The suit claimed the remains of Richardson's mother, Constance Denise Smith, were received by the funeral home on Jan. 7, but she did not learn until Feb. 20 that the facility was operating without electricity, and bodies remained for an "unreasonable" amount of time without proper storage available.
Richardson called Carter on Feb. 21 and found that her mother's corpse was still being held at the funeral home and hadn't yet been cremated, the suit said.
The other plaintiffs claimed similarly disturbing stories.
The body of Nichelle Fraction's uncle, Christopher Shields, was received at Carter on Dec. 20, 2011, for cremation, the suit said. Fraction repeatedly called the funeral home to ask about her uncle's ashes but was not given an explanation for the delay.
She visited Carter on Feb. 20, and was told her uncle's body was not there, the suit said, but she still hasn't received his ashes.
The remains of Eloise and Doron Neal's brother, Dwayne Neal, were received by the funeral home on Oct. 6, 2011, the suit said. The siblings made numerous calls to Carter and were told the cremation hadn't taken place and they would receive a call when their brother's ashes were ready.
The Neals were provided with a box of their brother's ashes on Feb. 27, the suit said.
The body of Vicki Moore's mother was received at Carter on Dec. 22, 2011, for cremation, the suit said. Contrary to Carter's promise, the ashes were not ready for a memorial service, and Moore did not receive the box of ashes until Feb. 22, the suit said.
The suit claimed the funeral home should have properly honored and respected family members by storing, preserving, cremating and memorializing the bodies stored there.
Carter Funeral Chapels did not respond Wednesday to a call for comment.