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Lawsuit to be Filed against Queens Funeral Home for Negligent Burial of Woman Who Was a Victim of Domestic Violence

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Lawsuit to be Filed against Queens Funeral Home for Negligent Burial of Woman Who Was a Victim of Domestic Violence

January 23, 2015

Ronald J. Katter of The Katter Law Firm has announced that he has filed a complaint at New York State Supreme Court, Kings County, on behalf of the family of the late Nequia Webb-Davidson against J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home, Inc. in Jamaica, New York and Rosehill Cemetery of Linden, New Jersey. In the complaint, the cemetery’s employees failed to dig out a grave large enough in which to lower the casket, which was severely damaged by their unsuccessful attempts during the burial. The mishandling of the casket — which included the opening of the casket lid, showing the remains in full view to the family — compounded the family’s shock and grief over the death of a loved one who was killed in a domestic violence dispute at the hands of her husband.

Ms. Webb-Davidson, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, lived in Chesterfield, Virginia. She was married for 17 years to Terrell Davidson, who had a history of domestic violence. On December 20, 2013, Ms. Webb-Davidson sustained injuries to the right side of her face after being assaulted by her husband when she came home late from visiting relatives. He began to punch her in the face repeatedly when she refused to give him the passcode to her cell phone.

On January 12, 2014, Ms. Webb-Davidson was killed by her estranged husband, despite the fact that she was issued an emergency protective order the same day. Mr. Davidson drove her car off the road, then he got out of his car, shot her to death, then killed himself.

After Ms. Webb-Davidson’s death, her family entered into a contract with J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home to retrieve her remains in Virginia, sell them a casket and prepare the remains for the graveside service and burial and provide the burial at Rosehill Cemetery. The burial and graveside service was scheduled for January 24, 2014.

It was discovered at the service that the grave that was dug out for the casket was too small. However, the cemetery’s employees attempted to lower the casket, but they failed. More attempts to lower the casket into the undersized grave became unsuccessful. While they continued to lower and raise the casket, the lid opened up and dirt and soil fell into the casket and the remains of the decedent were exposed to her family and the mourners in attendance.

After some of the laborers at the cemetery used shovels in an attempt to enlarge the size of the grave, the casket continued to get stuck and more soil and dirt fell into the casket when the lid opened again. All of this occurred in the presence of Ms. Webb-Davidson’s grieving family. The family’s grief was further compounded when they were told that the funeral would have to be postponed until the next day. The cemetery employees used a backhoe to widen the sides of the grave and the casket was finally able to be buried on January 25, 2014.

Mr. Katter said the funeral home and the cemetery employees denied right of sepulcher — that is, the right to a proper and decent burial — to Ms. Webb-Davidson’s family. “The funeral home showed an incredible amount of disrespect not only for the deceased, but for her family, who had to witness this incompetence and negligence,” Mr. Katter said. “It is tragic enough that the family continues to feel the anguish of their loss but, worse, they have to still have to experience the horrors that occurred that day at the graveside service.”