Counsel For Next Of Kin Announces That Federal Court In Tri-State Crematory Class Action Lawsuit Has Denied Motions By Defendant Funeral Homes For Summary Judgment
Kathryn E. Barnett, an attorney with the national law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announced today that U.S. Judge Harold L. Murphy has issued a series of significant orders in the federal class action lawsuit against funeral homes in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama that had sent remains of loved ones to the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia, for cremation.
The orders, dated December 19, 2003 and received by plaintiffs’ counsel late yesterday, denied almost all of the claims by the defendant funeral homes for summary judgment. As a result, plaintiffs, whose loved ones’ remains were mishandled, have cleared the last significant legal hurdle to advancing their case to trial. The action is entitled In re: Tri-State Crematory Litigation, MDL No. 1467, (N.D. GA, Rome Div.).
“This is a tremendous victory for the families in this case,” commented Lieff Cabraser attorney Kathryn E. Barnett. “It means these families will get their day in court, and it means that the funeral homes cannot escape having a jury decide if they should be held accountable.”
Judge Murphy concluded that plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether the defendant funeral homes bore responsibility for the actions of Tri-State Crematory in mishandling corpses and interfering with the right of burial. Of particular note, Judge Murphy found that the contracts for funeral services that the parties entered into imposed a duty on the defendant funeral homes to ensure that funeral arrangements, including cremation services, were performed properly.
On March 18, 2003, Judge Murphy certified the case as a class action lawsuit. Set for trial are plaintiffs’ claims of negligence, willful interference with remains and intentional mishandling of a corpse; negligent interference with remains and mishandling of a corpse; and breach of contract under Georgia law. Defendants deny any liability on these claims. Phase one of the trial, to determine liability, is scheduled to commence March 1, 2004, in Rome, Georgia.
A list of the defendant funeral homes in In re: Tri-State Crematory Litigation, MDL No. 1467, (N.D. GA, Rome Div.) may be found at http://www.crematoryclassaction.com.