The family of a department store worker whose body remained in a locked bathroom for days after she died is suing the company, saying her body was so decomposed they couldn’t even hold an open casket funeral.
Cleaning worker Bessie Durham went to the family bathroom at the Belk store near Columbia, South Carolina, around 7 a.m. on a Thursday and died from a cardiac problem shortly after clocking in, attorney Chris Hart said.
She never clocked out and her cleaning cart sat outside the locked door for four days until Columbia Police called the store trying to find Durham because her family reported the 63-year-old woman missing, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The suit was filed a year to the day when her body was found on Sept. 19, 2022, at the store at Columbiana Mall.
The store was open for regular hours the entire time. Durham worked for a company contracted to clean the store, and the manager called while she was dead but no one had found her to complain the bathrooms weren’t getting cleaned, Hart said.
The store began locking the bathroom after a shooting at the mall. Keeping the bathroom open, but locked, also created a safety hazard that prevented Durham from getting help, the lawsuit said.
Durham’s body showed obvious signs of decomposition when it was found, preventing the family from properly grieving, attorney Justin Bamberg said.
“This family should have had the opportunity to say goodbye the right way instead of having to sit at the funeral and smell the decomposing body of someone they cared about,” Bamberg said.