Hospital Blamed for Baby’s Bulk Cremation

     MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) – Parents of a stillborn baby say in court that their hospital lied to them after its errors led to the bulk cremation of their child with other bodies.
     Kelsey Brooks says she learned at a routine July 2011 checkup that her pregnancy had terminated in utero at 24 weeks. She and her husband, Justin, went to Wellstar Kennestone Medical Center to induce delivery of their stillborn son, whom they planned on naming Colton, according to their complaint in Cobb County State Court.
     Upon completing the stillborn delivery, the Brooks gave Wellstar Kennestone permission to perform an autopsy and other tests that would confirm the cause of the terminated pregnancy.
     They also signed a document that to have the baby’s remains cremated at Carmichael Funeral Home, where funeral services would then be held.
     Wellstar Kennestone informed the couple that the autopsy and testing could take up to four weeks to complete, and that after the tests were complete, it would release the remains to Carmichael as requested.
     The couple says they repeatedly requested updates several weeks later, but received nothing.
     More than two months after the stillbirth delivery, the hospital allegedly responded that the remains were ready for pick-up, but that it was “waiting on Carmichael Funeral Home.” A week later, another Wellstar Kennestone gave a different story, according to the complaint.
     “On or about October 5, 2011, Kennestone’s employee , Laura Caranamica, contacted Plaintiff Justin Brooks and informed him that Baby Colton had already been cremated with other bodies,” the complaint states. She “further noted that she could not guarantee it, but she believed she had the ashen remains of Baby Colton.”
     When a representative asked a week later if the hospital could positively identify the remains, Camila Rumbaugh, another Wellstar Kennestone employee, “assured plaintiffs’ representative that she absolutely had the remains of Baby Colton and had no idea where plaintiffs ever got the idea that Baby Colton could not be identified because she had the evidence of the chain of custody,” according to the complaint.
     “On or about December 15, 2011, defendant Kennestone faxed to plaintiffs’ representative a log indicating that Baby Colton’s remains were released to Carmichael Funeral Home on July 28, 2011 (which, plaintiffs later learned, as alleged herein, was FALSE),” the complaint continues (parentheses and emphasis in original).
     Rumbaugh allegedly contacted the Brooks and their representative to facilitate transfer of the remains on Feb. 12, 2012.
     The couple says they learned days later, however, that their son had been cremated in bulk at another funeral home.
     “Mr. Peden, of Medford-Peden Funeral Home, confirmed that his facility had picked up the remains, including those of Baby Colton, on or about July 28, 2011, and that his facility had cremated all of the remains in bulk that they picked up from defendant Kennestone,” according to the complaint.
     “At no time did any defendant request or receive a permit to dispose of human remains from the state of Georgia,” the couple continues.
     “Defendant Kennestone never released the remains of Baby Colton to Carmichael Funeral Home, contrary to its representations and assurances to plaintiffs.
     “Defendant Rumbaugh continued to attempt to deceive plaintiffs in an effort to shift blame from all defendants for the mishandling of Baby Colton’s remains.”
     The couple says the hospital failed to ensure that Medford Peden “properly and respectfully handled Baby Colton’s remains.
     “But for the failure of each defendant to properly discharge its duties, Wellstar’s horrific practices would have been discovered and stopped before Baby Colton’s remains were irretrievably cremated in bulk with other bodies such that Baby Colton’s remains are incapable of being properly identified and respected in death by the family,” according to the complaint.
     The Brooks seek punitive damages for the negligence, mishandling of a corpse, breach of fiduciary duty and other claims. They sued Wellstar Kennestone, Wellstar Health Systems and Rumbaugh.
     Matthew Wetherington of Conley Griggs Partin in Atlanta represents the couple.

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