A pair of mortuary workers dropped a body down a flight of stairs as the bereaved family listened on in horror, then tried to deny it ever happened, only to have their story unravel when—at the man’s wake—the obvious “denting and bruising on [the deceased’s] head” caused by the plunge simply became too much to ignore.
That’s according to a lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast, in which the family of late postal worker Juan “Chuco” Mejia demands a minimum of $1 million for mental anguish touched off by the harrowing episode. Mejia’s widow and three children filed the suit in Harris County, Texas on June 14, 2023, two years to the day after the 69-year-old Dallas Cowboys devotee lost his bout with cancer.
When Mejia died, he was at his daughter’s Houston condo, surrounded by loved ones.
“Thursday we made the difficult decision to end my father’s treatment and bring him home for hospice care—to be surrounded by our warmth and love,” Mejia’s other daughter wrote on Facebook upon his passing. “Thank you for the messages, phone calls, warm meals, flowers, and love… We hope that you can continue to remember and honor my father by living life to the fullest—like he always did (especially when cheering on the Dallas Cowboys).”
The family made burial arrangements with a funeral parlor in Mejia’s hometown of Eagle Pass, which contacted Houston’s Twinwood Mortuary Services to retrieve his remains.
The two young-looking men who showed up at the second-floor unit didn’t exactly inspire confidence among Mejia’s anguished relatives, according to the lawsuit. Mejia’s son Will, a former assistant district attorney in Harris County, Texas, looked on dubiously as the pair, “visibly hesitant in their decision making,” covered his dad’s body with a blanket, placed it on a metal stretcher, and started toward the building’s outdoor staircase. It was obvious the two had bitten off more than they could chew, but Will’s offer to help carry the body down to the street was rejected out of hand, according to the suit.
“As the employees began to transport Juan Mejia’s body down the steps located outside of the condo, Plaintiff William Mejia closed the door and heard a thump,” the suit goes on. “Plaintiff William Mejia then heard several thumps in a row.”
Will waited “a brief moment” before opening the door, according to the suit. At the bottom of the stairs, it says Will spotted the stretcher “tipped over with the employee carrying the foot of the stretcher on his knees to the left of the staircase near the lawn bricks. The employee carrying the head of the stretcher was on the ground to the right of the end of the staircase near the bushes.”
Juan’s body was splayed out on the concrete pavement of the building’s public courtyard, his head, shoulder, and upper body “uncovered and exposed,” the lawsuit continues. Will rushed downstairs and “frantically covered his father’s body by hugging it in an attempt to shield him from being viewed by neighbors,” it says. He then “attempted to level the stretcher and fought to lift both Juan Mejia’s body and the metal stretcher off the ground but was unable to do so.”
Amid his struggle, Will called out to the two mortuary workers for help, according to the lawsuit. Together, the three of them managed to bring the stretcher level and get Juan’s remains back onto it, then walked the stretcher over to a rolling frame, the suit states. But when they placed the stretcher on the frame to load it into their vehicle, Will’s arm got pinned in between the two, leaving him with pain in both his arm and his back, the suit alleges.
“One employee apologized for the situation and agreed that the situation should not have happened the way it did,” it states. “He admitted that no one should have seen what the Plaintiff William Mejia saw.”
When Will contacted the funeral home in Eagle Pass about what had just happened, they told him to sit tight while they investigated. When the funeral home called him back, Will was informed that the hapless mortuary workers disputed his account, insisting things “did not occur as [he had] explained,” according to the lawsuit.
Instead, it says Will was told the pair “reported that they had safely put Juan Mejia’s body down slowly to better adjust their grip, and that nothing else occurred.”
Four days later, the Mejia family arrived at the funeral home for Juan’s wake. There, Will and his mother were the first to see the open casket.
“Upon viewing Juan Mejia’s body, Plaintiff William Mejia, his mother, Margaret Mejia, and sisters, Plaintiffs Michelle Mejia and Melody Mejia-Barrios, observed denting and bruising on [his] head from being dropped on the ground by the employees who transported him… the night of June 14, 2021,” the lawsuit states.
This caused the family “tremendous mental anguish… and even interfered with [their] grieving process,” it argues, contending that the pain will, “in all probability,” continue until some unknown future date.
A review of local court filings by The Daily Beast turned up a variety of similarly egregious allegations in recent months. In one instance, the parents of a 15-year-old boy say his body was put on display without eyes. In another, a mother says she found her son’s body infested with maggots when she arrived for his visitation service. In yet another surreal example, a woman says she found a stranger’s remains in her sister’s casket, after which her sister’s body was allegedly cremated without the family’s permission. Earlier this year, as The Daily Beast previously reported, a Long Island, New York woman sued for $60 million after discovering the wrong person had been buried in her father’s gravesite, in his favorite Led Zeppelin T-shirt.
The attorneys representing the Mejia family were in depositions on Monday morning and not immediately available for comment. A manager at Twinwood Mortuary Services also said on Monday that the husband-and-wife team who own the business were out of the office and unavailable to speak by phone; emails sent and voicemails left seeking comment were not immediately returned.
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