QUEENS — The casket prepared by a Jamaica funeral home popped open during a burial, allowing dirt and rocks to fall onto the body of a woman who had already suffered a life of abuse, as her grieving family members watched in horror, according to a recent lawsuit.
J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home, Inc. failed to secure the coffin containing the body of Nequia Webb-Davidson, who was killed by her husband on Jan. 12, 2014, allowing the lid to spring open as workers tried cram it into a grave that was too small.
“The funeral home showed an incredible amount of disrespect not only for the deceased, but for her family, who had to witness this incompetence and negligence,” lawyer Ronald Katter said.
The suit was filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Jan. 25.
“It is tragic enough that the family continues to feel the anguish of their sudden loss but, worse, they still have to experience the horrors that occurred that day at the graveside service.”
Webb-Davidson, 40, was shot in Virginia by her husband, Terrell Davidson, who then turned the gun on himself.
Webb-Davidson and her husband had a troubled relationship, and the victim filed an emergency order of protection only two days before she was found dead, according to published reports.
The husband served in the Army and was deployed at least four times to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he received numerous awards for his service, according to reports.
Webb-Davidson, who had five children ages 13 to 21 when she was killed, was born and raised in Brooklyn, and lived in Chesterfield, Va., her family's lawyer said.
After her death, Webb-Davidson's family hired the Queens funeral home to transport her body from Virginia. The funeral home was also responsible for arranging a funeral service at Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, N.J. on Jan. 24, 2014, Katter said.
At the funeral, it quickly became clear that the grave was too small for the casket, the family claimed in the suit. As the cemetery workers tried to lower the coffin into the grave, it got stuck between the sides and the coffin's lid opened, allowing soil and rocks to fall inside, according to court papers.
The casket was then removed from the grave and workers tried to make the grave larger. But despite their efforts, the casket would not fit and the lid opened again as they tried to lower it into the grave, according to the lawsuit.
The funeral home’s employee then told the family that the service had to be postponed until the next day so workers could make the grave bigger and clean the casket.
Webb-Davidson's family is suing both the funeral home and the cemetery, seeking compensation for the trauma of the botched funeral.
The funeral home and the cemetery did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.