UPDATE: Mother of Woodmore crash victim files lawsuit against funeral home, fake attorney
The lawsuit claims the mother was locked in a room by a funeral home employee with a fake attorney, who was wanting to represent her.
UPDATE: Several lawsuits have been filed following the deadly Woodmore bus crash last November that killed 6 children and injured dozens more.
The mother of one child who was killed in that crash is now suing a local funeral home and an out-of-state law firm.
In 2016 the attorney general warned families who were grieving from the Woodmore bus crash against predatory law firms.
READ MORE | CONTINUING COVERAGE: Woodmore bus crash
This stated to be cautious of firms that contact families within 30 days of the tragedy.
“It allows people to cool off rather you get hit in an automobile or somebody stole something from you. It's a cooling off period time frame and think about things too,” said Stuart James.
Days before Cor'dayja Jones funeral, her mother Latesha Jones, was visiting Taylor funeral home for a private showing of Cor'dayja's body.
She says, later in the day Anita Taylor, an employee of the funeral home, guided some family members to a different room.
According to her lawsuit, that's when Taylor locked Jones into a room and, before she could leave, she was forced to sign a contract with a lawyer.
“The funeral home is way out of line because you can technically say its false imprisonment,” said Stuart James. “They held her in a room made her make a decision wouldn't let her go and during a time of grief that's the worst thing.”
Jones was introduced to Alphonso McClendon, who, she says, passed himself off as an attorney from Witherspoon law firm out of Illinois.
McClendon allegedly told Jones Durham school service offered a 3 million dollar settlement but stated he thought he could get her 4 million.
“The second the funeral home isn't authorized to solicit business for any lawyer. The third thing is the lawyer isn't from the state so we don't know if he's doing unauthorized practice of law,” said Stuart James.
Jones says she was locked in this room from about 30 minutes as she tried to escape and family on the other side of the door tried to help as well.
Jones is suing Taylor funeral home of Chattanooga, Anita Taylor, Witherspoon law group and Alphonso McClendon for a number of damages such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud.
PREVIOUS STORY: The mother of a Woodmore crash victim is suing a local funeral home and a Texas-based law firm for locking her in a room with a fake attorney who was wanting to represent her in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit says LaTesha Jones, mother of Cor'Dayja Jones, went to Taylor Funeral with some family members for a private viewing of her daughter's body. The mother became too upset to continue funeral arrangements and was told to come back later by funeral home employee Anita Taylor.
Jones and some of her family members later returned to the funeral home to meet with Durham School Services to go over the arrangements for her daughter. The meeting took several hours.
The lawsuit says, during a break from the meeting, Anita Taylor told Jones and a few of her family members to go to a separate room that was away from the other family members.
The suit says Taylor locked the door behind her once the family was inside and then introduced Jones to Alphonso McClendon, who claimed to be an attorney with Witherspoon Law Group. The suit says Jones was locked in the room by Taylor for more than 30 minutes while McClendon "illegally solicited her for legal representation" until she signed a representation agreement.
While locked in the room, the suit says a family member of Jones knocked on the door and expressed concern for the mother but was not allowed in the room by Taylor. The suit says Taylor would not allow Jones to leave the room until after the agreement was signed.
The suit says McClendon lied to Jones about his legal strategy in the weeks that followed and it was ultimately discovered that McClendon was never a licensed attorney.
In December of 2016, LaTesha Jones hired a new attorney and dropped Witherspoon.
The civil lawsuit against Taylor Funeral Home, Anita Taylor, Witherspoon Law Group, and Alphonso McClendon was filed on September 22, and accuses the defendants intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud.
The lawsuit says Jones is seeking no less than a total of $1,000,000 for compensatory and punitive damages.
The following is a copy of the entire lawsuit filed by attorney W. Thomas Bible: