Cemetery, Funeral Home & Cremation Fraud

Law Topics >  Cause of Injuries > Cemetery, Funeral Home & Cremation Fraud

On February 14, 2002 investigators with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a gruesome discovery outside the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia. Described as a scene out of a horror movie, authorities found dozens of body parts scattered in the woods behind the Tri-State building. To the astonishment of EPA officials and Walker County deputies, Tri-State's owner, Ray Marsh, had buried hundreds of corpses, meant to be cremated, in the ground behind the Tri-State office. He also had stacked others in nearby storage buildings. Marsh's excuse to investigators? The crematorium was malfunctioning. The news made headlines nationwide as hundreds of friends and family of loved ones, thought to have been cremated at Tri-State, were informed of Marsh's shocking secret. To date, investigators have discovered hundreds of bodies on Tri-State's grounds, but only a few have been identified. Family members have filed dozens of lawsuits against the crematory and the funeral homes that sent bodies to it.

Tri-State's terrifying revelation stunned the nation, but it also opened the population's eyes to a harsh fact: the world is full of selfish, cold-blooded individuals who will do almost anything to make a dollar. It's a tragic story. Our loved ones live a full and earnest life, eventually leaving this world for the next. Upon their death, friends and family honor their memory by giving them a proper funeral followed by a peaceful burial or cremation. They entrust the handling of this service to funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories. Unfortunately, to err is human. Funeral and cemetery operators sometimes make unintentional mistakes. Corpses can be embalmed or refrigerated improperly, cremated when they are meant to be buried, laid to rest in substandard coffins, or interred at the wrong gravesite.

However, as seen in the Tri-State matter, sinister cases also appear to plague the death care industry. Almost invariably, these incidents involve greed, corruption, and deception. Cemetery and funeral home employees may take advantage of grieving family members whose minds, hearts, and wallets are vulnerable during their mourning period. Jewelry is stripped from corpses and coffins are switched, both in an effort to save money. There have even been reports of multiple cadavers occupying the same casket. Moreover, body molestation is becoming a problem and some graves are used as garbage dumps.

New cases and allegations of malpractice by industry officials emerge every week. In a business that has a guaranteed clientele (we're all going to be customers), it seems strange that such excesses should occur. Fortunately, for the consumer, funeral homes must follow the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule when disclosing information to a potential client. Stipulations state that homes must disclose prices of goods and services. Further, they must inform customers that embalming is not required in immediate burial or cremation cases. And, they must not imply that embalming or sealing a casket will preserve remains. These disclosure stipulations are designed to protect the consumer from unnecessary financial outlays. However, if unscrupulous industry personnel have harmed a client, filing a lawsuit may be the best answer. Experienced death care malpractice attorneys can help families gain financial retribution.