07/28/04 — Wrongful embalming alleged against Rhodes Funeral Home

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Wrongful embalming alleged against Rhodes Funeral Home

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on July 28, 2004 2:06 PM

Rhodes Funeral Home of Goldsboro is being sued by a brother and sister from California over the handling of their mother's body.

Victor Collins and Linda Collins of San Diego County are seeking more than $10,000 for negligence, wrongful embalming, conversion, unfair and deceptive trade practices and punitive damages.

The plaintiffs' mother, Hattie Lee Collins of Dudley, died Nov. 15, 2002, in her home on Casey Mill Road.

The Collinses contend that the Wayne County sheriff's deputies responded to the mother's home and contacted Rhodes Funeral Home. They say the body was removed without their authorization as next of kin.

When the siblings called Wayne Memorial Hospital to request an autopsy, they allege that the body had not been delivered. Instead, they contend, the body was embalmed without their authorization by the funeral home.

Two days later, the plaintiffs say, Rhodes Funeral Home refused their request to release the body to Garris Funeral Home of Mount Olive unless they paid $525 for transportation and embalming of the body.

When Victor Collins visited Rhodes Funeral Home on Nov. 21, 2002, he contends that J.B. Rhodes Jr., the 49-year-old son of owner J.B. Rhodes Sr., refused to release his mother's body unless he was paid.

Rhodes Sr. is a former Goldsboro city councilman.

Later, the suit alleges, the N.C. Board of Funeral Service revoked Rhodes Funeral Home's license and Rhodes' Sr. permit because of the mishandling of the woman's body. But the revocations were suspended on condition that Rhodes and the funeral home be placed on probation for one year, that both pay a $500 fine to the Board of Mortuary Science and refund the plaintiffs' $525.

The plaintiffs' lawsuit was filed by their lawyer, Jeff Ellinger of Raleigh, in the Wayne County Clerk of Courts Office. It listed the funeral home and J.B. Rhodes Jr. The defendants have not answered the lawsuit.

An official with the Funeral Service Board confirmed that J.B. Rhodes Sr.'s permit, as well as the license for the funeral home, was revoked in early 2003 as a result of the complaint.

The revocations, Executive Director Paul Harris said, were suspended, and Rhodes and the funeral home were placed on probation for one year. The probation period is now over.