Family sues funeral home after workers swap baby's casket during burial

Fox 8 video screenshot

A Florida family was outraged after funeral home employees switched out the coffin during their son's funeral in March. On July 3, they filed a lawsuit against the mortuary.

Porscha Stephens and Netfa Malcolm Sr. are suing Elijah Bell Funeral Services in Lauderdale Lakes for tortious interference with a dead body, reckless infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, breach of contract, and several Florida statute violations.

Stephens gave birth to Netfa Jabari Malcolm Jr. on February 16. The baby was born prematurely, and passed away two weeks later on March 2.

A funeral was held for Nefta Jr. on March 14, and mourners laid flowers on the casket at the grave site. During the service, Elijah Bell employees asked the parents to "speed up" the funeral, but did not explain why.

With the parents and other family members still at the gravesite, and "without notifying the Plaintiffs of its mistake," cemetery workers raised the casket out of the ground, and funeral home employees produced another casket from a hearse.

Nefta Jr.'s aunt described the shocking events.

"They took the casket back out of the hole," she told WSVN.

"The other hearse came in with my nephew and they put him out there. And then they asked us, do we want to do a service all over again, when we already thought that we buried my nephew."

The funeral home opened the second casket and had the baby's father confirm that it was his deceased son inside. Nefta Jr.'s aunt said the family was hysterical.

During the funeral, the Elijah Bell-provided preacher referred to the baby as their daughter, and there was a pink blanket sticking out of the casket. The family believes that someone's daughter was placed in the ground.

"They actually had the service. They buried the little girl," the aunt said. "They brought the little girl's body back out, brought my nephew in, switched caskets. It's complete negligence on Elijah Bell."

The funeral home told 7News that the first casket was empty.

The lawsuit said the family continues to suffer "mental anguish, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life and other losses."