Last month, five families sued the crime-scene cleanup company Aftermath Inc. and three of its north Texas employees. Three families had hired Aftermath to clean up after the suicide of a loved one, while the two others brought in the company after their family members were found dead several days after decomposition began.
In their suit, all of them claimed the trio of Texas cleaners deceived them about the cost of Aftermath's services, charged them for hours in which they worked for 15 minutes and sat around for 45, and hit them with staggeringly high final bills. FOX-DFW recently reported that the Texas Attorney General is also looking into the allegations.
Now Aftermath has filed a response to the lawsuit, denying that they defrauded the families. They're also counter-suing for breach of contract, asking for the original cleaning fees in full. In all, those fees amount to more than $125,000, with each family being charged between $16,000 and $30,000 apiece for one to three days of cleaning.
In their original lawsuit, the families claimed that they were quoted prices that turned out to be "300 percent to 1,000 percent" lower than their final bill. Aftermath denies that, but doesn't provide any documentation of the original quotes the company provided.
Instead, the company's counter-claim includes copies of the final invoices the families received. In each of them, the families were billed for between $2,000 and $5,000 worth of cleaning supplies, plus equipment and machinery, a separate $475 "job set-up and preparation fee," and a $75 "certificate of service," among other charges.
Aftermath is asking that the original cleaning fees be paid with interest, plus attorney fees and court costs. We called to get an explanation of some of the charges on the invoice, and will update accordingly.
Update, 9:00 a.m.: Laura McGowan, a spokesperson for Aftermath, called us to talk about the lawsuit and the company's business practices. "[The plaintiffs] claims are so non-specific. We're asking for clarification and we counter-sued," she says.
McGowan adds that although the supplies used aren't itemized on the invoice, "we have detailed records" of what they are.
"This is truly not just cleaning," she says of Aftermath's services. "This is bio-hazard remediation. It's not just a mop and bucket operation." At times, she says, Aftermath has been called in to clean up after "more traditional cleaning companies" left "lingering odors, body fluids, even stains that have come back. It's truly a health hazard... We're more EPA than Merry Maids."
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McGowan says it's Aftermath's policy to update clients on what the cleaning crews have been discovered and to update the cost estimate accordingly. "Every two hours, we give updates of where we're at and what we've discovered. No two scenes are alike... Especially down in Texas, things can be hot. Body fluids and things like that can be accelerated."
Finally, McGowan says that the "vast majority" of the company's customers pay "$500 out of pocket" for cleaning, and that insurance usually pays for the rest (although those claims have been denied for the plaintiffs in this case.) Of the Texas Attorney General's investigation, she says, "We welcome additional scrutiny to this industry. If more people were held to a higher standard, this wouldn't be an issue... You've got people out there slapping a magnet on the side of a truck and saying that they do this job."