Opening statements are expected from the lawyers representing relatives about 1,200 deceased, who claim the remains of their loved ones were not handled with dignity but were instead put in graves where other people had been buried and caskets were crushed to make room for more.
The lawsuit also claims some bodies were lost at the Galilee Memorial Gardens cemetery, which was shut down in 2014.
The class-action also alleges that licensed funeral homes sent bodies to Galilee cemetery for three years after the cemetery said its registration expired in December 2010.
More than a dozen Memphis-area funeral homes allegedly failed to carry out their “sacred and contractual duties” for vulnerable, mourning relatives who expected their loved ones to be interred with dignity, according to an Associated Press story that ran Sept. 3 in the Chillicothe Gazette.
The news story said investigations revealed that Galilee’s owners, the Lambert family, misplaced hundreds of bodies, buried multiple cadavers in the same grave, and crushed caskets to fit them into single plots for years.
The funeral homes deny allegations of breach of contract, negligence and infliction of emotional distress. They claim they did not violate customers’ contracts and did not have a contractual relationship with Galilee. The funeral homes argue they had no duty to monitor Galilee’s licensing and are not liable for the cemetery’s actions.
Jemar Lambert, who took over the cemetery’s operations after his father died, received 10 years’ probation in a plea deal with state prosecutors for his role in the mishandling of burials. He left behind disorganized records and many families who don’t know where their loved ones are buried. Galilee is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
UPDATED 2019: A jury found Galilee 99% responsible and awarded $7,500 for each body – roughly $9 million. However, last August a class-action lawsuit was filed against the lead attorney representing the 1,200 plaintiffs in the case, alleging legal malpractice. The lawsuit claims the lead attorney “refused to entertain, respond to, and accept over $25 million in settlement offers made by the Funeral Home Defendants during the trial…” The defendants deny the allegations,