Family files $50M lawsuit against funeral home for putting wrong body in casket

A New Jersey family grieving the loss of their mother has filed a $50 million lawsuit against a Bergen County funeral home.

News 12 Staff

Jul 26, 2022, 9:53 AM

Updated 686 days ago


A New Jersey family grieving the loss of their mother has filed a $50 million lawsuit against a Bergen County funeral home.
The Kim family has accused the Blackley and Central Funeral Home of Ridgefield of placing the wrong body in the casket. The mistake was not realized until moments after the body was lowered into the ground.
Kyung Ja Kim, a mother to five, died peacefully in November at the age of 93. She lived in Englewood Cliffs, but her family says that their final goodbye quickly turned into horror.
“The last memory of her was very painful and disturbing and horrible,” says daughter Kummi Kim.
On the day of her burial, the director at the Blackley and Central funeral home took Kummi Kim in to see her mother one last time in the casket. She says she noticed her mother’s hair and clothing were correct, but something was wrong.
“When she opened the casket, I told them, ‘This is not my mom.’ And she didn’t say any word about it. She was so much younger looking,” Kummi says.
Kummi Kim assumed her mother looked different because of the embalming. So, they continued on to the cemetery in Valhalla, New York. As the casket was lowered, the director showed Kummi Kim a photo on her phone of Kyunga Ja Kim at the funeral home.
“She came to me and showed picture. ‘This is the lady at the funeral home. Is this your mom?’ and I collapsed,” Kummi says. “She ran away without saying any word about why she was taking the casket out.”
The Kim family is suing for $50 million. They say that if they win the suit, all of the money will go to their mother’s church – Promise Church in Leonia.
“It will all go to the church she was devoted to her whole life,” says son Yoonsung Kim.
The casket was pulled from the ground, and the family learned that inside was another Korean woman, also named Kim. The director told the family there were no identifying tags on the bodies.
"Kim is not an unusual name. And so there should be identifiers so that we do not confuse one Kim with another Kim,” says attorney Michael Maggiano.
Maggiano says this was a complete failure, noting that the family had given the director their mother’s dentures, which were found under the pillow of the other woman.
"One would think that you have dentures and a body with a full set of teeth there must be something wrong here,” Maggiano says.
That's why he's accusing the funeral home with negligence, battery and a denial of peaceful internment.
The funeral director apologized, and Kyung Ja Kim was buried the next day.
But the family says the experience and memory of saying goodbye was tarnished.
"We trusted the funeral home, but they violated the trust,” says son-in-law Taichul Kim.
News 12 reached out to Blackley and Central Funeral Home for a comment but did not hear back.

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