Baby burial a mistake; suits filed
A Pompano Beach funeral home faces two separate lawsuits for allegedly burying two infants in a shallow grave instead of cremating them as requested by their mothers.
Chandra Robinson of Pompano Beach and Jacqueline Smith of Fort Lauderdale are each seeking damages in excess of $15,000, in suits their lawyers say may be amended to seek greater compensation for emotional distress.
Smith’s son, Anthony Smith Jr., who died five days after his premature birth on May 6, 2001, was buried with the body of Robinson’s unnamed son. Born prematurely, Robinson’s son lived for two hours following his birth on July 23, 2001.
L.C. Poitier Funeral Home is accused of placing the infants in plastic bags and burying them together in a shallow hole in Westview Cemetery in Pompano Beach. In the suits filed in Broward County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Smith and Robinson say the funeral home received $100 for each baby, for cremation.
Woodrow Poitier, the owner of L.C. Poitier Funeral Home, told state regulators that the funeral home made a mistake.
”I have no reason for the mix-up,” Poitier said in a written statement to James Patton, an investigator with the state Department of Business & Professional Regulation. ”This was one of the ones that slipped through the cracks, so to speak.”
In August, the state Board of Funeral Directors & Embalmers fined Poitier $5,000, placed him on a one-year probation and ordered that he pay another $839 in costs, for mishandling the remains.
The burials were discovered when one of the mothers requested the ashes of her child. That’s when she was told the child had been buried against her wishes.
The infants have since been disinterred and cremated.
Chandra Robinson and Jacqueline Smith could not be reached for comment.
Yvonne Robinson, Chandra Robinson’s mother, on Friday said she personally told Poitier they wanted the baby cremated.
”I told him in the beginning what was supposed to be done,” said Yvonne Robinson of Pompano Beach. ”I don’t know how he got it mixed up. I don’t believe it was a mix-up. How do you mix up something like that?”
Yvonne Robinson, who attended school with Poitier, said he handled a cremation for a child she lost in 1979. She said the way he handled the disposal of her daughter’s son is upsetting. ”He’s wrong for doing what he did,” she said.
Accusations across the nation of grave desecrations and fraud over the last several months have prompted investigations into whether the federal government should do more to regulate the funeral industry.
One of those scandals involved Menorah Gardens cemeteries in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which oversold plots and then buried people in the wrong places or smashed vaults to make room.
In August, Joe Damiano, Broward’s body-hauling mogul, was stripped of his operating license because of charges he misplaced the ashes of a client who was cremated. He was fined $10,000.
Then Damiano’s companies were accused of diverting bodies to Lynn University, a Boca Raton liberal arts school that has a mortuary arts program, where bodies were embalmed without the consent of loved ones.