(NewsNation Now) — A Texas funeral home that once had its own show on TLC is being sued by almost 20 families over accusations of negligence and mishandling of their loved ones’ remains.
The Dallas-based Golden Gate Funeral Home is known for throwing extravagant, over-the-top funerals.
On its reality television show called “Best Funeral Ever,” the funeral home highlighted some of its most unique and custom funerals.
“If they wanna dunk a basketball, Golden Gate Funeral Home can make that happen,” John Beckwith Jr., director of the funeral home, says in a trailer for the show. “If they wanna jump out of airplanes, Golden Gate Funeral Home can make that happen for them.”
The TV show debuted in 2013 and spanned two seasons.
They even put on the funeral for Reverand Al Sharpton’s mother a decade ago.
But now, 17 different families have come forward saying their experience was not just less than expected, it was repulsive.
Golden Gate denied the allegations, and told NewsNation it was immune from liability under Texas law.
Last week, 14 different families filed lawsuits against Golden Gate. This followed the three lawsuits filed by families in 2021.
“I can learn to forgive, I’m just hurt. I’m angry,” Jodie Jackson said.
In 2019, Jackson lost her 23-year-old son “peanut” to a motorcycle accident. She describes him as a free spirit and a star athlete for the Ducks — Dallas’ professional flag football team.
Having attended many funerals at Golden Gate over the years, she chose them to handle her son’s cremation.
“In my contract, I picked out a red urn, probably about that big.” Jackson said gesturing with her hands the size of a smaller urn.
But things quickly didn’t feel right to her. She says Golden Gate wouldn’t return calls or emails, and it took almost two months to receive her son’s ashes.
“They go back there, bring the urn out and hand it to me,” Jackson said. “And then in a minute, the guy who does the cremations said ‘hold on here’s your other one.’ And I said ‘why do I have another urn?”
“And both of them are tremendously heavy,” she said. “I mean heavy, heavy.”
Her lawsuit alleges the urns contained ashes for at least three adults. She also claimed neither had identification, which is a violation of Texas code. She still doesn’t know if the ashes in either of the urns belong to her son.
“You destroy that emotional healing and you traumatize people when you don’t do things correctly,” said attorney Ryan Sellers.
Sellers is the lawyer representing all 17 families in their lawsuit against Golden Gate.
In a separate lawsuit, another client alleges she showed up for her mother’s viewing to find she was still in her hospital gown and partially decomposed.
“He goes all out for some people. But it seems like the average person who just wants to come have a humble celebration of their mother or son’s life is just kind of left there,” Sellers said.
Attorneys for Golden Gate told NewsNation they “work diligently to comply” with standards in their industry.
Golden Gate is a family-owned and operated business that has provided care and services to the Dallas community for generations. For the owners and employees of Golden Gate, nothing matters more than providing compassionate and caring guidance for the bereaved, and respectful and dignified care for their loved ones. We strive to diligently address any concerns regarding our services, and we work diligently to comply with the standards and regulations that apply to the funeral home profession. Our goal is to always provide the quality funeral home services our community has come to expect from us.tonika brown, Golden gate attorney
Sellers believes Golden Gate is unable to handle the overwhelming demand for their business, continuing to chase profits at the expense of grieving families like Jackson’s.
“My biggest thing is what did you do to my son before you cremated him?” Jackson asks. “Did you just put him in a room, did you throw him on the floor, did you put him in a U-Haul?”
Attorneys are expected to announce more lawsuits against Golden Gate in the future.