Family sues department store after cleaner’s body lay undiscovered in bathroom for four days

Bessie Durham, who was found dead in a department store restroom where she worked (Bessie Durham / Facebook)
Bessie Durham, who was found dead in a department store restroom where she worked (Bessie Durham / Facebook)

A South Carolina department store where a cleaning worker’s dead body was left for four days is now being sued by the woman’s family members.

The family of Bessie Durham are suing Belk, Inc after the 63-year-old was found dead inside the store’s public bathroom on 19 September, 2022 — whilet surveillance footage last captured her entering the store on 15 September, according to WIS.

A year later, on 19 September, Durham’s family announced that they were filing a lawsuit against Belk, alleging that the department store failed to inspect the restrooms, failed to properly hire contractors to inspect and clean them, and failed to supervise the contractors to ensure the cleaning and inspections were done properly, according to the complaint obtained by WACH.

The family is seeking damages for pain and suffering. The filing reportedly states that at the funeral, loved ones could smell Durham’s body due to the heavy decomposition.

“This is an incredibly tragic situation that should never have happened,” said Chris Hart, the attorney representing Durham’s family . “Our client’s loved one was a loyal and dedicated worker, and Belk’s gross negligence has etched the most indelible horror on the family.”

“They didn’t ask if Bessie was OK. They didn’t ask why hasn’t this cart moved in four days,” Mr Hart added. “They asked why aren’t the bathrooms being cleaned.”

“We hope that this lawsuit serves as a wake-up call to Belk and other corporations, that they have a moral and legal obligation to treat workers and their families with dignity and respect,” Mr Hart said.

WIS reported that Durham’s family had filed a missing person’s report at the time of her unexplained absence. An autopsy found Durham died from a cardiac problem, the Associated Press reported.

In the wake of the tragic discovery, Belk issued a statement: “First and foremost, we send our deepest condolences to the family of the housekeeping associate who was employed by KBS, which provides cleaning services at our Columbiana Centre location. At this time, we are working with KBS to determine the details around what happened. We have also made counselors available to Belk and KBS associates seeking support.”

Durham’s daughter Colie Jeter posted on Facebook on the anniversary of her mother’s death: “One year and a lifetime to go. I miss you momma. Lord knows i do everyday. Continue to get your rest. I love you lady.”