A High Court judge has ordered Casket Emporium Funeral Home in Tobago to release the body of a man who passed away more than a month ago.
In a late night sitting on Tuesday, Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams granted an injunction against the funeral home, ordering them to release the body of Odwin Thomas, who died on July 28.
The matter was filed by Thomas’ son Handell, who was represented by attorney Martin George.
Thomas alleged that on August 3 he had a meeting with the owner of the funeral home, Shirelle Clarke, who claimed that he could finance his father’s funeral arrangements by using an invoice that would be prepared by the funeral home.
Thomas said he signed an agreement committing to paying the fees when the funds became available.
However, when Thomas could not get financing from financial institutions, he asked to have his father’s body returned on August 9.
He claimed that Clarke demanded a payment of $16,000 before releasing the body, citing an embalming fee of $6,000 and a storage fee of $10,000 at $2,000 per day.
Thomas contested these additional fees, claiming he had not authorised embalming and was unaware of the daily storage fee.
But Clarke claimed Thomas agreed to make the payment in the signed document and that he was responsible for all fees.
Thomas argued that the agreement did not specify any figures and that he had not agreed to a storage fee of $2,000 per day.
He told the court that other funeral homes confirmed that the standard for a storage fee was around $250 per day.
Thomas’ lawyers sent a letter demanding the release of the body upon payment of a storage fee at the industry rate of $250 per day, which amounted to $1,750 at that time.
The body was not released and this prompted Thomas’ attorneys to file an injunction.
The court ordered the funeral home to release the body to Thomas so that he could make arrangements with another funeral home for the burial.
As part of the judgment, Thomas was required to pay $1,750, the amount tendered as a reasonable storage fee, as opposed to the funeral home’s bill of $56,000, for storage and embalming.