An Albertson woman and her brother are suing a Long Island funeral home after their father’s ashes were mixed up with another man’s, ruining their plans to spread his remains in the Ganges River as part of a sacred Hindu ceremony.
Susan Sharma and her brother, Sunil, who lives in North Carolina, filed a lawsuit against Moloney Family Funeral Homes Inc. on Aug. 13 in State Supreme Court in Nassau County.
The Sharma family hired Moloney funeral homes to cremate and care for the ashes of Sarup Sharma, who died on Feb. 3, 2017, at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, until the family could travel to India for the ritual, according to the suit.
The ashes were kept at the Lake Ronkonkoma funeral home location, but were mixed up with those of another man with the same last name, according to the suit.
Susan and Sunil Sharma contacted Moloney to also care for the ashes of their mother, Chander, who died in September 2017, according to the suit.
In October 2017, the Sharmas informed the funeral home they planned to take both parents’ remains to India to perform the ceremony together.
On Nov. 28, 2017, the funeral home informed the Sharmas that Sarup Sharma’s remains had gone to the wrong family and had already been scattered in the Ganges River, according to the suit.
In a statement, Moloney spokeswoman Katherine Heaviside said, “once we learned of the situation we immediately reached out to both families to express our remorse and assure them of our full cooperation during this difficult time.”
Heaviside added, “We have reviewed all of our procedures and have taken steps to strengthen our protocols further to ensure that we maintain the full trust and confidence of the families we serve, as we have for the last 85 years.”
Sometime after Chander’s remains were given to Moloney to care for, Sarup’s ashes were wrongly given to the family of Shashi Sharma, according to the suit.
Shashi Sharma died on July 8, 2017, according to an online Moloney obituary notice.
Moloney funeral homes “knew and understood that the Hindu practice and custom of spreading the deceased’s remains in the Ganges was a sacred, important and central rite in Hindu life,” according to the lawsuit.
The mix-up has caused “mental anguish” to Sarup Sharma’s children, according to the suit.
The Sharmas’ attorney, Oscar Michelen with the Mineola-based firm Cuomo LLC, said there is “simply no excuse for what happened here.”
“The Sharmas were obviously devastated to find out that the funeral home behaved so carelessly with their father’s remains,” Michelen said in a statement. “All of us rely on a funeral home to act responsibly and professionally when we entrust our loved ones’ remains to them.”
There is no law firm listed for Moloney Family Funeral Homes in the lawsuit.
Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.