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December 9, 2023

Houston morgue workers dropped body down stairs, family discover dented head at wake, lawsuit says

Houston morgue workers dropped body down stairs, family discover dented head at wake, lawsuit says

A Texas family sued a morgue in Houston saying they have been dealing with “severe mental anguish” after two employees dropped their father’s body, leaving “denting and bruising” on his head.

The alleged incident happened on June 14, 2021, as two workers with Twinwood Mortuary Service were transporting Juan Mejia’s remains from his daughter’s second-floor condo. The family filed a lawsuit in June, two years after his death, and are seeking more than $1 million. It was first reported by The Daily Beast, who said Juan Mejia died of cancer.

The family said the Twinwood employees appeared young and “were visibly hesitant in their decision making” as they attempted to bring Mejia’s body down a staircase on a metal stretcher, the lawsuit stated.

One of the family members offered to help carry the stretcher but the employees declined, according to the suit. The same family member suggested that the employees ask for help from co-workers but they said they did not need help.

Mejia’s son, William Mejia, then closed the door of the condo as the employees began transporting the body. Then he “heard a thump.”

“Plaintiff William Mejia then heard several thumps in a row,” the lawsuit stated.

William Mejia said he waited a moment and opened the door to find the stretcher tipped over and his father’s head and upper body uncovered and “exposed on the ground,” according to the suit. He ran down and frantically tried to cover his father’s body “by hugging it in an attempt to shield him from being viewed by neighbors,” the suit stated.

The suit said William Mejia tried to upright the stretcher and yelled at the employees to help him. They were able to level the stretcher, place the body back on it and walk the stretcher toward a rolling stretcher frame so it could be loaded into the vehicle.

During the struggle, he got his arm caught underneath the stretcher, leaving him with pain in his arm and back, according to the suit.

An employee who answered the phone at Twinwood declined to comment on Tuesday.

William Mejia reported the incident to the local funeral home the family was working with. The funeral home told him they would investigate what happened, the suit said. The funeral home later contacted William Mejia and told him that the employees had allegedly told Twinwood that the incident did not happen as William Mejia described it and said they had put the body down safely so they could adjust their grip, the lawsuit said.

The family did not realize that the alleged fall damaged the body until four days later, at the wake.

“Upon viewing Juan Mejia’s body, Plaintiff William Mejia, his mother, Margaret Mejia, and sisters, Plaintiffs Michelle Mejia and Melody Mejia-Barrios, observed denting and bruising on Juan Mejia’s head from being dropped on the ground by the employees,” the lawsuit said.

Seeing Juan Mejia’s remains like that “caused tremendous mental anguish” for the family, the lawsuit said, “and even interfered with his and his family’s grieving process.”

The family and their attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Minyvonne Burke

Minyvonne Burke is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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