BUSINESS

B.C. brother, sister allege funeral home picked up mom's body without consent

02/24/2015 06:42 EST | Updated 04/26/2015 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - A brother and sister are taking a B.C. hospital and funeral home to court, alleging the body of their 95-year-old mother was picked up by a funeral services company without their consent and later had to be tracked down by another firm.

James and Jacqueline Haliburton name St. Paul's Hospital and its parent company Providence Health Care, as well First Memorial Funeral Services and its parent company Service Corp. International Canada in a notice of civil claim filed Feb. 20 in B.C. Supreme Court.

The siblings allege that after the death of their mother, Holly Haliburton, on Feb. 17, 2013, the companies were negligent and broke the province's consumer protection rules.

The Haliburtons say they have experienced emotional upset, psychological pain, suffering, sleep disruption, anxiety and prolonged grief.

The statement of claim says that almost two years after their mother's death, the siblings have not received an explanation or apology from First Memorial for what it terms a "terrible end-of-life ordeal."

Providence Health Care did not comment by publication, and Service Corp. International Canada declined comment.

"Out of respect for all the families we serve, it would be inappropriate for me to share any details on any specific family or situation," said Service Corp. spokeswoman Kimberly Tarleton in an email.

The statement of claim says that before Holly Haliburton died, she bought a membership with the Memorial Society of B.C. and received a card listing a phone number to be called upon her death.

It says James Haliburton called that number asking for a quote for a cremation and was told by a director of First Memorial in North Vancouver to book an appointment.

According to the statement of claim, the Haliburtons visited the funeral home and met with a female employee who told them the funeral home would not honour the Memorial Society card, then gave them a list of cremation prices.

The statement of claim alleges the female employee turned out to be an unlicensed apprentice.

The siblings say they ended up deciding to use a less-expensive cremation service, but when that company's workers called St. Paul's morgue about picking up the body, they were told it wasn't there.

The statement of claim says that Preston Webb, owner of A Basic Cremation, investigated and tracked down the body to a crematorium owned by First Memorial in south Vancouver.

It also says the family has documents showing the body was picked up from St. Paul's the day before the siblings met with the employee of First Memorial in North Vancouver.

"To this day, the Haliburton family does not know where Holly's body went after leaving St. Paul's morgue and before Preston Webb took custody of the body on Feb. 28, 2013," says the statement of claim.

The Haliburtons allege the defendants broke Consumer Protection rules that prohibit companies from providing funeral services without written authorization, and apprentices from meeting with clients and negotiating contracts without a licensed supervisor in the room.

They are seeking general and punitive damages.