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Funeral home holding body "hostage"

Seattle, WA |

My father died day before yesterday. The hospital (a very large one) for some reason has no morgue. When they couldn't reach me right away, the hospital contacted a funeral home for removal of the body. I contacted that funeral home yesterday and the price they quoted me for cremation et al. is approx. $2600. I have not signed any paperwork for them at all. I found another company this morning that will provide the same services for $795; not the low end of the scale here in WA but not the high end.

I contacted the first funeral home this morning and they are telling me that before they can release the body they need to receive $350 from me for “transportation fees and administrative costs”. I told them that I hadn’t called them, the hospital did and the hospital should be responsible. We went round and round. They finally agreed to drop the fee to $150, and the guy I was talking to loudly proclaimed they were not holding my dad’s body “hostage”. I beg to differ.

If I go to their office and sign the release form for my dad's body to be taken to the new facility, but refuse to sign their "fee contract" and do not pay the $150, can they refuse to release my dad's body? If they do this, what are my options?

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Attorney answers 1


Contracts signed under duress are unenforceable. Further you can counter-sue the hospital for releasing your father's body without consent. Finally, most funeral homes are licensed by either the county or state or both. Contact the licensing department and let them know about this. Then Call your state legislator. Let him know and ask his administrative aid in charge of constitituent issues to help you. I have a feeling if the owner feels the heat of the goverment on his neck, he may relent.

Finally I would also contact the consumer affairs bureau of the local TV or Newspaper. I am sure they would love to jump on a story like this and may be able to get dad's body out of debtors prison.

It is probably cheaper to pay the 150 but you could find a lawyer to help. Or better call the local law school and see if their legal clinic would help you out.
Good Luck.

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