Family plans to sue Surrey funeral home after burial mix-up

Photos of Ester Verdant that were published today in the Surrey Now newspaper

Photos of Ester Verdant that were published today in the Surrey Now newspaper

An anguished and frustrated family is planning to sue the Valley View Funeral Home in Surrey, B.C., for a burial mix-up involving their grandmother, who was buried in a less expensive casket than the $4,000 oak casket that she had pre-paid for years before she died last July at the age of 95.

Click here to read today’s full story in the Surrey Now newspaper by Tom Zytaruk.

The family of Ester Verdant had asked the funeral home to check whether Ester had pre-paid for a casket, but the home could find no record of it, the family said.

The family later learned that not only had Verdant bought an oak casket for $3,936 in 2002 from the funeral home, which was paid for by monthly instalments, but Verdant had also pre-paid for her funeral service through a monthly life insurance policy.

The family only recently learned about the pre-existing contracts while going through Verdant’s personal papers after her burial, the deceased’s granddaughter,  Maria Thelle Kim, told the Surrey Now.

When the family contacted the funeral home with this upsetting news, the funeral home director was “very apologetic” and offered to pay out the amounts received for the casket and funeral services, but the family said it wasn’t sufficient, considering Verdant had been buried in the “wrong” casket, causing the surviving family members “much emotional distress and sleepless nights unnecessarily.”

The lesson for family members: Be aware if a loved one has a pre-paid contract for funeral services, and know where that contract is located to avoid similar grief as this family suffered.

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Another SCI cemetery screw-up upsets another grieving family

When Nana H. Dudley, 95, died in early May 2015, Evergreen Cemetery officials discovered a child's remains from the 1950s buried in a plot next to her husband in Louisville, Ky., that she bought for herself. (Photo: Brian Bohannon, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal)

When Nana H. Dudley, 95, died in early May 2015, Evergreen Cemetery officials discovered a child’s remains from the 1950s buried in a plot next to her husband in Louisville, Ky., that she had bought for herself. (Photo: Brian Bohannon, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal)

 

A cemetery owned by Texas-based Service Corp. International has screwed up again, causing another grieving family further grief.

It happened earlier this month in Louisville, Kentucky, where Bill Dudley‘s 95-year-old mother, Nana Dudley, who died earlier this month, was supposed to be buried in the prepaid plot beside her late husband, Jack Dudley Sr.

Instead, a day after Mother’s Day, family members learned that someone else had been buried in their mother’s prepaid plot beneath a double headstone beside their father.

His mother had to be buried elsewhere in Evergreen Cemetery.

This wasn’t the first screw-up involving a member of the Dudley family.

In 2013, Dudley’s niece had to be buried  in another grave because of the same problem — someone had been buried in her plot, located next to Dudley’s parents.

“Long story short, it happened to my family twice,” Bill Dudley recently told USA Today. (You can read the story here, which includes a video interview with Dudley.)

His father’s reburial, to be accompanied by a military salute, will ensure that his mom and dad are together as they wanted, the story said.

“We deeply apologize for this situation,” the cemetery’s general manager, Jim McCaskey, said in a statement issued by Dignity Memorial corporate communications in Houston, Texas, the report said.

The company is owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), North America’s largest provider of funeral and cemetery services, which owns many of the funeral homes and cemeteries in the Vancouver area and across Canada.

SCI owned the funeral home that our own family had a bad experience with — they took our mother’s body from the St. Paul’s Hospital morgue without our permission.

You can read about our family’s story by clicking here. Earlier this year, we filed legal action over the incident and filed complaints with Consumer Protection BC, which regulates the funeral industry in British Columbia, Canada.

We launched this website last year in memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, 95, who died two years ago in Vancouver. We also wanted to educate the public about consumer protection rights involving the funeral industry.

Holly.1946.age.29.

Holly Haliburton, 1946

 

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Seattle area family sues SCI funeral home for horrible mistakes

Browns.funeral A Seattle area family has launched a lawsuit against Texas-based funeral giant Service Corp. International (SCI), for the alleged horrible mistakes made at a funeral home owned by SCI.

A story aired tonight on KIRO TV news about the lawsuit filed by Brian and Randy Moon. Click here to watch the story.

Their father, Jerry Moon, 72, died in 2013. The one thing he asked was that he not be cremated. “My father was terrified of being cremated,” Brian Moon recalled.

But the Moons claim Brown Mortuary in Chehalis did just that, then put the body of another man in Jerry Moon’s casket by mistake, even dressing him in Jerry Moon’s clothes.  We wrote about the story earlier on this blog.

Now the Moons are suing Brown Mortuary and its parent company, SCI, a multibillion dollar death care company based in Houston, Texas that owns funeral homes and cemeteries across north America, including many B.C.

The Moons claim since the incident, they’ve never gotten an apology or even an explanation from Brown or SCI.

Brian Moon told KIRO TV that when he confronted funeral home employees and the manager around the time of his father’s death, they simply kept claiming the body was that of Jerry Moon.

Even more shocking, the funeral home had put a plastic bag over the head of the man in the casket.

“After trying to convince me that that was my father several times over he (the manager) finally just said he agreed, that’s not your father,” said Moon.  “I think they screwed up and knew it and they tried to cover the whole thing up,” Randy Moon added.

An Associated press story said: “Jerry Moon had prepaid Brown Mortuary Service $4,655 for his funeral services, according to a lawsuit filed in Lewis County Superior Court. His lawyer, Shawn Briggs, said Moon didn’t want to be cremated and arranged to be buried in a family plot in Chehalis.”

The Moons told KIRO TV that their lawsuit is not about money — they want accountability.

Our family also had a horrible experience with an SCI funeral home in the Vancouver area of Canada. The company took the body of our 95-year-old mother without our permission. Like the Moon family, we also filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the funeral home and SCI.

Another family in Ontario also had the same experience as us — an SCI owned funeral home also took their loved one’s body without permission. We earlier posted that family’s story here.

We started this website to help raises awareness about consumer rights in the funeral industry. We also wanted to honour the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton.

Holly and her daughter Jackie, 1987.

Holly and her daughter Jackie, 1987.

 

 

 

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Eden Memorial Park cemetery sued again over allegations of disturbed remains

Eden.Memorial.Park.photoA large Jewish cemetery in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles named Eden Memorial Park is facing a new lawsuit containing allegations of disturbed remains from graves.

It is the second multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the cemetery, which is owned by Texas-based funeral giant Service Corp. International (SCI), which owns a string of cemeteries and funeral homes in the Vancouver area, and across Canada and the U.S.

The cemetery contains the graves of Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce and numerous Hollywood celebrities.

Last year, SCI settled with families in a previous case for $80.5 million for similar complaints at the same cemetery.

The latest lawsuit alleges family members who buried loved ones at Eden Memorial were not told when they bought plots that cemetery groundskeepers were instructed to make new graves fit, even if it required breaking outer burial containers in neighbouring graves.

The lawsuit alleges that digging between graves caused remains to be disturbed, which were disposed of in a cemetery “dump” in another part of the cemetery.

The civil lawsuit was filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court last week. More than 60 plaintiffs claim Eden Memorials was negligent and interfered with the dignified disposal of human remains.

The plaintiffs also allege fraud and are seeking damages for emotional distress for destroying graves and discarding human bones in a cemetery “dump” to make room for new burial plots.

“Current and former groundskeepers at the cemetery have admitted that breaking burial vaults will often cause human remains to spill out of the broken vaults,” alleges the lawsuit, according to an L.A. Daily Times story.

“In such situations, the groundskeepers were instructed by their supervisors to throw away the bones and other remains in the Cemetery Dump located on the cemetery premises,” the legal action claims.

SCI has faced a number of class-action lawsuit in the past that have alleged misconduct. The company reached out-of-court settlements before the cases were decided.

In 2003, SCI paid a $14-million settlement to end a $100 million in a civil class-action that alleged grave desecration at Menorah Gardens cemetery in South Florida.

And this is a company that uses “Dignity” as its flagship brand in the funeral industry. (You’ll notice the Dignity brand at the entrance to Eden Memorial Park in the photo above.)

Our family recently filed a lawsuit against a local SCI-owned funeral home, First Memorial Funeral Services, which took the body of our 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, from St. Paul’s Hospital morgue without our signed consent (which is legally required) or even our verbal permission.

To this day, neither First Memorial nor SCI has offered us an apology or a written explanation of how this horrible situation arose, causing our grief to be prolonged.

On the first anniversary of our mother’s passing, we established this website to both honour our mother and to provide consumer rights advice and increase public awareness of the funeral industry.

We also support the Memorial Society of B.C., a non-profit organization formed more than 55 years ago to help its members to plan funerals that are simple, dignified and affordable. It has more than 200,000 members.

For more info on SCI’s past and the funeral industry, watch this  60 Minutes segment from 2013, by Anderson Cooper:The transcript of the segment and related videos are here.

Bloomberg also did a story on SCI two years ago, which is here.

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George Westwood, Haida Gwaii man, forced to stop unlicensed funeral services

Haida.Gwaii.hot-springs-theCanadianPress

Haida Gwaii hot springs. photo by The Canadian Press

After a complaint about a Haida Gwaii man performing funeral services without a licence, Consumer Protection BC sent George Westwood a letter, informing him how he could become licenced.

Consumer Protection BC oversees the funeral industry in the province of British Columbia, Canada.

Westwood, however, said he only had been trying to help families for 30 years living on the northern coastal island because the nearest funeral home was in Prince Rupert. He said he wasn’t interested in doing it as a job.

“Truthfully I’m hurt to the core,” Westwood told CBC news.

“When you give so much of yourself and someone comes up and kicks you in the ribs, it’s just like, ‘Is this really what we’ve become, this is how low we’ve stooped?’ That you cannot help your neighbour when they’re at their worst, they need it most? And you need a piece of paper to be able do that?

“Burying the dead is one of the basic obligations of humanity,” he said. “You can tell a great deal about society with how they deal with their dead.”

The CBC story is here.

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Funeral Consumers Alliance writes about Haliburton family lawsuit

Holly.1946.age.29.

Holly Haliburton, 1946, age 29.

A blog by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), a non-profit group that is a funeral consumers watchdog in the U.S., mentioned the lawsuit recently filed by the Haliburton family in Vancouver, Canada, concerning a funeral home incident involving their 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, who died two years ago. Click here to see what was written by executive director Josh Slocum.

The FCA website provides some interesting articles about funeral services and the industry in the U.S.. It recently provided advice to people who can’t afford a funeral and also shared this Detroit Free Press story about do-it-yourself funerals in your own home.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance also recently noted a new memorial trend in England to use cremation ashes in a tattoo to honour the memory of a loved one. You can read that story here.

Microsoft.clipartAnother trend is for green burials (environmentally friendly). You can read more about this on the website established by the Green Burial Council in the U.S., which also includes a list of green burial providers in B.C.

Last year, The Atlantic did a story on those seeking a greener approach to funeral and burial services. And the David Suzuki Foundation’s “Queen of Green” has written about green funerals and burials here.

Consumer Protection BC has information about green burials here and the Memorial Society of B.C. (MSBC) has information here.

Funeralwatchdog highly recommends joining the The Memorial Society of B.C., a non-profit organization formed in 1956 to help its members plan funerals that are simple, dignified and affordable. For a $40 lifetime membership, members can save up to 40% on cremation and services. More information is available on the MSBC website here or by calling MSBC at 1-888-816-5902.

funeral-dispute PhotobyMike.Wakefield

photo by Mike Wakefield/North Shore News

The North Shore News also did a story this weekend on the Haliburton case. That story is here.

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Haliburton family files lawsuit over mother’s body being removed from morgue without permission

Siblings Jim and Jackie Haliburton have filed legal action over the removal of their mother's body without permission. Holly Haliburton, 95, died Feb. 17, 2013. Her body was from St. Paul's Hospital morgue on Feb. 25, 2013, the day before a scheduled meeting with First Memorial Funeral Services in North Vancouver.

 Jim and Jackie Haliburton have filed legal action over the removal of their mother’s body without permission. Holly Haliburton, 95, died Feb. 17, 2013. Her body was taken from St. Paul’s Hospital morgue on Feb. 25, 2013, the day before a scheduled meeting with the First Memorial funeral home in North Vancouver. photo by Vancouver Sun

We have filed a lawsuit against a funeral home and its parent company for removing the body of our 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, from the morgue of St. Paul’s Hospital without our permission.

The hospital and its board, Providence Health Care, are also named as defendants in the legal action, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. The other defendants are the funeral home, First Memorial Funeral Services, and its parent company, Service Corporation International (SCI), the funeral industry giant that is based in Houston, Texas.

Our court action alleges the defendants were negligent and did not follow the regulations requiring signed consent before Holly’s body was removed from the morgue the day before we had a scheduled meeting to discuss prices with First Memorial, which had refused to discuss the price of a cremation over the phone and insisted we attend a meeting at the funeral home. After the meeting, we decided to hire A Basic Cremation (ABC) to handle the cremation service. But when ABC went to pick up Holly’s body, it wasn’t at the morgue — it had already been removed by First Memorial.

Stories on our lawsuit appeared today in a number of media outlets, including The Vancouver Sun. Click here to read the latest story by Sun reporter Lori Culbert. And you can read the original Sun story, written in 2013, by clicking here.  CTV News ran a story today by The Canadian Press. Click here to read that story.

Here are a few photos of Holly over the years:

Holly and Jackie, 1987.

Holly and Jackie, 1987.

Holly.1946.age.29.

Holly Haliburton, 1946. She was 29.

Holly.with.Jackie.as.a.baby

Holly in 1949 with Jackie, aged 2.

Holly.1960

Holly (far right) with her family on vacation in 1960. Left to right: Holly’s son Jim, husband Jack and daughter Jackie.

Holly.1961

Holly with her dog, Chiefie. 1961.

 

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