A Texas family is suing a Houston mortuary for negligence after they said employees dropped a loved one's body, causing bruising to appear during an open-casket wake.
The Mejia family sued Twinwood Mortuary Services in June this year for dropping Juan Mejia's body down a flight of stairs hours after his death more than two years ago, his son William Mejia and family attorney Rick Barrera told USA TODAY. They alleged two employees transported Juan Mejia's body on June 14, 2021 without a licensed funeral director present, per Texas state law, according to a suit filed in Harris County District Court.
"We don't want another family to have to go through this," William Mejia, Juan's son, told USA TODAY.
Barrera said they haven't heard from the Twinwood Mortuary Services since the incident. According to court records, the business was served on June 23 but hasn't responded to the lawsuit nor do they have a lawyer retained.
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Twinwood Mortuary Services didn't immediately respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
Twinwood was contracted to transport Juan Mejia's body to Yaeger Barrera Mortuary, of Eagle Pass, the border town where he grew up for funeral services, the lawsuit states.
"We have these battles we go through and we can't ask for a time machine," Mejia said. "We wish this memory and experience didn't exist."
Juan Mejia's wife Margaret Mejia, and daughters Michelle Mejia and Melody Mejia-Barrios also said they saw further bruising and dents on Juan Mejia's head during the June 18 wake, according to the lawsuit.
Mortuary accused of mishandling relative's body
In the lawsuit, the family alleges two Twinwood workers were struggling to carry Juan Mejia's body down the stairs outside of his condo. During that, William Mejia said he heard thumps and saw a stretcher tipped aside, with his father's upper body exposed on the ground.
"I picked him up with my bare hands so that neighbors wouldn't see it," the son said.
The Mejia family alleges a funeral home director wasn't present when the two workers removed Juan Mejia's body from the condo, despite Texas law requiring a licensed funeral director to be present.
A Twinwood employee apologized to Mejia after the incident, saying in part no one should've seen what he witnessed, the suit alleges. But when Mejia contacted the Yaeger Barrera Mortuary about the incident, the mortuary told Mejia that Twinwood said they safely transported his father's body down the stairs with no incidents.
The family is seeking a jury trial, according to the lawsuit.
"It's the hope we can figure out why and what policies and procedures are in place to protect families," Barrera said.
Who was Juan Mejia?
Juan Mejia was a postal worker, William Mejia said. He died in hospice after a battle with cancer.
Mejia said his father would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need. He recalled his father pushing him and his sisters to get a good education and be involved in several youth activities.
"He was my hero and someone I always looked up to and sacrificed everything for us to get a better life," he said.
Mejia said his father was the protector of the family, but as he grew older, the roles reversed after his dad began to have problems with his leg. The son turned protector, saying he'd walk in front of his father at Dallas Cowboys games to keep people from bumping into him. He added they would buy seats at the edge of rows so his father could comfortably stretch out his legs.
"This was a tough thing to work through, to live through," the son said. "For this to happen, hours after losing him, it's just weighing on me because I was always wanting to protect him, his honor and his name."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas mortuary sued over allegations body was dropped down stairs