MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WATN) – A member of one of Memphis’ most famous families has been slapped with a state fine for improperly reusing funeral caskets.
The Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers fined Edmund Hull Ford $3,500 for using hospital body bags as liners so a rental casket could be reused and not damaged. A former employee reported the conduct earlier this year, sparking an investigation.
That employee of E.H. Ford Mortuary Services said he confronted Ford, the funeral director, and raised concerns about the practice late last year. Jeremy Harris said Ford responded by firing him, leading him to file a complaint, which led to the investigation.
“The sad part about that matter is that the families have no awareness that this act took place,” says Harris.
According to the state, dozens of families who paid for a rental casket were shortchanged in recent months. Harris reported Ford instructed staff to use hospital body bags as liners in rental caskets, a state violation.
“For one particular casket, it has been over 35 remains that have been taken in and out,” says Harris.
According to the findings, state investigators said it was undisputed the funeral director used the same rental casket without a new interior or interior insert being installed.
State investigators also concluded Ford engaged in unfair or deceptive funeral acts or practices.
“If I could speak to Mr. Ford, I would just ask him why, why did you do this, why the deception?” says Harris.
“You only die one time on this earth, so you actually want your family members, friends taken care of the right way,” says Frankie Pruitt. “Let the families know, be real about it.”
Tuesday at E.H. Ford Mortuary, a service will be held for Pruitt’s friend, who passed away from cancer.
“Why they being so cheap about it, they are making plenty of money I’m pretty sure.” Pruitt said the fine is as sad as it surprising, considering the name on the sign out front. “When you think about Ford in Memphis, you aren’t think about a Ford truck, you are thinking about the funeral home.”
When Local 24 went by the funeral home Monday, an employee said, “There is no comment.”
“The $3500 is not even close to the damages that has been done with those families,” says Harris.
A state spokesperson said the fine totals for the funeral industry are based on a series of factors, including the severity of the violation and if there were any past violations.
Harris tells Local 24 he hired an attorney and said he plans to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the funeral home.