Rader Funeral Home, Inc. v. Chavira, 553 S.W.3d 10 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2018, no pet.).




A funeral home delivered the wrong body to the decedent’s family. The mistake was noticed just before the service was to start when the decedent’s widow and son were to preview the body. When the casket was opened, they were shocked to find the body of another man, an additional victim of the same car accident that killed the decedent. The widow and son filed suit against the funeral home for negligent infliction of emotional distress and prevailed at the trial court.


On appeal, the court rejected the claim that the funeral home did not have a contract or other relationship with the widow and son which would thus prevent them from recovering for mental anguish damages. After a detailed review of the Texas law regarding a cause of action mental anguish, the court followed the Texas Supreme Court case of SCI Texas Funeral Services v. Nelson, 540 S.W.3d 539 (Tex. 2018), which held that the “relationship between a person disposing of a decedent’s remains and the next of kin is special, even without a contract.” Accordingly, the widow and son did not need contract privity and could prevail based on the independent legal duty the funeral home had not to mishandle the decedent’s remains.


Moral:  A funeral home should have someone who knows the decedent, but who would not be upset upon seeing a different body, check the contents of the casket prior to allowing family members to view the casket’s contents.