Switched at Death: Women Buried in Wrong Plots
Attorney Eric Dubin, left, and co-counsel Jessica Cha, right, are representing Alberto Pernudi, rear, and Marielena Covarrubias in a lawsuit against Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Marielena Covarrubias says Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier mixed up her mother's body with another woman's and buried her in the other woman's grave.
When 87-year-old Mercedes Rodriguez died in September 2010, another woman with the same last name -- who was also about the same age -- also died.
Rose Hills handled services for both women.
Rodriguez's body was buried in another woman's clothes in a Rose Hills plot, rather than being sent to her native Nicaragua for internment in a crypt, as called for in her funeral plans.
"I kept thinking that maybe she woke up, and she saw herself in the middle of the night underground and that to me, it gave me nightmares," Covarrubias told KTLA.
"They were careless, and they saw two elderly Hispanic ladies with the same last name, and picked one and ran with it," family attorney Jessica Cha said.
Rodriguez's family says Rose Hills discovered their mistake and exhumed their mother's body for transfer.
The family got a refund for their burial policy.
Rose Hills gave the other family a re-do funeral and burial for their loved one's body.
Most of it was handled by sales people over the phone, Mercedes' family said.
"It was treated as a business transaction," Covarrubias said. "We did not even speak to the main person. They did not come down and say 'I'm sorry.'"
The family's breach-of-contract suit is seeking pain and suffering and punitive damages.
Rodriguez's body has since been exhumed and interred in Nicaragua, as her family said she had wished.
In an email to KTLA, a Rose Hills spokesperson said only: "We have not seen the lawsuit and cannot comment on it."