SINGAPORE: A Taoist man’s family files an S$225,000 lawsuit against funeral service providers for cremating him with incorrect rites.
The family members of late Kee Kin Tiong, a Taoist individual, have initiated legal action against multiple funeral service companies, seeking damages exceeding S$225,000.
This follows an incident where a funeral home erroneously conducted Christian rites during his cremation.
The family contends that the mishandling of their departed family member’s remains led to significant emotional suffering and distress.
Additionally, they assert that the funeral service providers displayed a lack of empathy and understanding throughout the ordeal.
Mistaken cremation of Taoist man following Christian rites
The passing of Mr Kee, aged 82, occurred on 29 December 2019, as reported by Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
Subsequently, his family engaged Tan Khiam Soon Undertaker to transport the body the following day for embalming and onward delivery for the appropriate Taoist funeral proceedings.
The body was transferred by the funeral service to an embalming facility operated by Century Products Company, where the embalming procedures were performed.
Coincidentally, Harmony Funeral Care, another funeral service, dispatched an employee to collect the remains of another 70-year-old individual named Mr Chia.
Regrettably, the employee, Mr Nicholas Ang Kai, inadvertently retrieved the body of Mr Kee.
As a result, the deceased was cremated in accordance with Christian funeral customs at Mandai Crematorium.
Mr Ang’s legal representatives explained that due to his recent introduction to the role, Harmony Funeral Care had not provided him with comprehensive training, which ultimately led to this regrettable error.
The deceased individual intended to undergo three days of Taoist mourning rituals
Both Harmony Funeral Care and Century Products Company faced suspension by the National Environment Agency (NEA) as a consequence of the mishap.
However, The Straits Times (ST) reported that their suspensions were revoked in February 2020 subsequent to the implementation of appropriate corrective actions.
The confusion caused by the funeral services understandably deeply upset Mr Kee’s family.
Based on Taoist teachings, it is customary for family members to observe a three-day mourning period before cremation.
Failing to follow these proper rituals could potentially impede the smooth transition of the deceased’s soul to the afterlife, as per Taoist beliefs.
Consequently, on Monday (21 Aug), the Kee family initiated legal action against the four entities they held accountable.
Family alleges emotional strain resulting from confusion
The legal representatives of the family conveyed that Tan Khiam Soon Undertaker had breached their contractual obligations.
Additionally, Century Products Company and Mr Ang were both deemed negligent, while Harmony Funeral Care bore “vicarious liability” for Mr Ang’s lack of due diligence.
The legal team emphasized that these errors had deprived Mr. Kee’s family of the chance to bid their final farewells and perform the appropriate funeral rites.
The family’s assertion was that these missteps inflicted mental anguish, trauma, and an enduring state of complex bereavement disorder.
The family members of the deceased described their life as a “living hell” since the untimely cremation.
As part of their civil lawsuit, they sought a total of S$225,000 in general damages, including additional amounts such as $14,000 allocated for grief therapy.
Funeral services accused of lack of apology
Additionally, Mr Kee’s granddaughter, Ms Adeline Kee, asserted that the accused parties showed no remorse towards the family.
Lawyers representing the defendants inquired whether she recollected the funeral services offering assistance from ritual providers.
Ms Kee did not recall such offers and either indicated that other family members handled those aspects.
Nonetheless, she did mention recollecting a dearth of empathy from one of the funeral service providers.
According to reports from CNA, one of them purportedly criticized the family for “making numerous phone calls.”
The trial has yet to reach a verdict and is scheduled to continue at a later date.