NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - American sisters Evelyn and Hortense Edwards spent two decades visiting what they thought was their mother's grave only to discover it contained the remains of a stranger.
Now, the sisters are seeking $25 million in damages from the Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey, for emotional distress caused when they learned that their mother, Beatrice Williams, had been buried in the wrong plot.
"It was devastating for them," Mark Crawford, the sisters' attorney, said in a telephone interview.
He said they only discovered the mix-up after they complained to the cemetery about their mother's grave falling into disrepair. An employee looked up the plot in question.
"She said, 'There's a man buried there,' and they said, 'What do you mean there's a man buried there?'" Crawford said.
The complaint says the cemetery has acknowledged that the plot location in the sisters' paperwork was incorrect. In a letter sent to the sisters last July, the cemetery said it believed their mother was in fact buried in another section, the complaint said.
The cemetery declined to comment.
Crawford said the sisters are not convinced that the cemetery has not misplaced their mother's remains. They want the cemetery to disinter the remains at the second grave to confirm the remains there are of their mother.
But the cemetery said it will only do so if the sisters take responsibility if the remains of someone else is disturbed and relatives decide to sue.
"They're not willing to take the risk of correcting their own mistake," he said.
The sisters had bought three plots when their mother died in the hope that they might one day be buried by her side.
Crawford said he was not sure whether the mix-up was restricted to just two sets of remains or whether other plots were similarly mislabeled.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston