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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Another family suffers ordeal of funeral home taking a body without permission

LargeFuneralWhat prompted our family to start this website was  an incident involving our 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, and a North Vancouver funeral home after her death, which caused us great anguish and greatly prolonged our grieving. You can read the full story about what happened here.

The essence of the incident was that our mother’s body was taken without our verbal permission (written permission is required under B.C. regulations) from the morgue at St. Paul’s Hospital.

The North Vancouver funeral home, owned by the Texas-based Service Corp. International (SCI has faced more than one class-action lawsuit in the U.S.), later explained it was an honest mistake made by a junior employee. However, we filed complaints with Consumer Protection BC over the incident, which still upsets us to this day.

We recently learned that a family in eastern Canada suffered the same ordeal by yet another SCI-owned funeral home. The Ontario family, which doesn’t want their names used, contacted us and recalled almost an identical incident to our own: After contacting a funeral home to inquire about prices, the funeral home took their loved one’s body without permission.

Here is their story:

During the month of May of this year, my Grandfather was terminally ill. Aware that actions would be required after his death, some of the family members made inquiries to local funeral homes in order to get an idea of the services offered and the proposed prices. And so, my uncle (the son of the deceased) and his wife called the [name of funeral home deleted by request of the family]. While discussing the possible prices and services, the funeral home collected the name of my grandfather, his date of birth and the hospital at which he was expected to pass away.

 At that point, my uncle did not make any commitment with the funeral home. He had called in order to gather information for my aunt (the oldest daughter).

In the meantime, me and my wife had contacted  [a cremation services company] and gathered information from there as well.

Finally, my grandfather passed away late in the evening. He was 86. The family gathered around him, mourned together, and then went back home.

The following morning, we shared a breakfast and, as a family, agreed to go along with [the cremation service company] in order to take care of my grandfather’s remains.

However, what we did not know, is that while we were having breakfast, at 10:45 a.m., [the funeral home] sent a subcontractor to pick up our grandfather and to bring his remains into one of their transition centres….What apparently happened is that when my uncle called, a small data form was filled in with the little information they were provided and they kept the information to ease the process, should my uncle confirm that the family was indeed going to use their services.

However, this form made its way to a secretary with little experience and got confirmation from the hospital that my grandfather had indeed passed away and that he was ready for pick up at the hospital morgue. She then called a sub-contractor group that are typically used to help in urgent situations and asked them to pick my grandfather up, which they did.

 While my grandfather was already in [the funeral home’s] facilities, we called [the cremation company] and asked them to take care of our grandfather. They gladly offered their assistance, however, insisted that we diligently complete all the forms and papers before they would retrieve my grandfather’s remains from the hospital. Due to grief and distance, we could not process these papers until late afternoon of the following day. Once they they had the papers, [the cremation company] went to the hospital to pick up my grandfather around 5 p.m. It was finally at that time that we had confirmation that [the cremation company] had not picked up my grandfather as he had already been picked up by [the funeral home]!

We were outraged and surprised. The lady from [the cremation company] then followed up with the situation until we could finally pick up my grandfather’s remains at [the funeral home’s] downtown center and confide him to the care of our intended funeral home.

We then met with the funeral director responsible for the  funeral home and he explained how the error had occurred. This meeting lasted about an hour…and has been recorded.

 My family did request that I take this case further, and I will contact lawyers…in order to follow up with what has happened.

Many SCI funeral homes operate under the name Dignity Memorial. The company  is buying up many of the family-owned funeral homes in Canada, resulting in some B.C.  towns where consumers may think that the funeral homes have different owners, but in reality they all are owned by SCI.

Dignity_Memorial_New

The logo of Dignity Memorial, operated by Texas-based Service Corp. International

SCI.funeral.homes.mapThis map is from a website operated by Service Corp. International (Canada) ULC, which states: The Dignity Memorial® network of more than 1,800 licensed providers is North America’s largest and most trusted brand for your funeral, cremation or cemetery needs. Whether your need is now or you are making end-of-life final arrangements in advance, you can count on your Dignity Memorial provider for professionalism, quality and service excellence.

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Consumer Protection BC suspends licence of Vancouver Island crematorium

Consumer Protection BC has upheld a September 2012 decision to suspend the licence of Cowichan Valley Crematorium Ltd., effective on April 15, 2014, and the business was ordered to stop providing services by that date.

Consumer Protection BC initially suspended the licence of the crematorium in September 2012 as the operator did not provide the documentation needed to meet the requirements for a commercial crematorium licence, as defined in the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Regulation.

The business had requested and was granted a reconsideration of the decision, as was their right. The licence suspension was stayed and the business was allowed to continue providing services, pending the outcome of a court case between the crematorium and the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

The judge found that while the crematorium was allowed to operate for many years, it was not allowed under zoning regulations.

“Once the court made its ruling, we were able to start our reconsideration process,” Tayt Winnitoy, Vice President of Consumer Protection BC operations, said in a news release. “As we have still not been supplied with the necessary documentation, the business must cease providing cremation services.”

A backgrounder on cremation services in BC, as well as other tips, information and a list of licensed BC cremation and funeral services providers, can be found on Consumer Protection BC’s online site: www.funeralrightsbc.ca. All recent Consumer Protection BC enforcement actions are also online hereL www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.

Source: Consumer Protection BC

About Consumer Protection BC:
Consumer Protection BC is a not-for-profit corporation whose aim is to provide consumer confidence in the marketplace. CPBC enforces consumer protection laws and licenses and inspectes specific industries, including the funeral industry. It also responds to consumer complaints, investigates alleged violations of consumer protection laws and educates consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. You can follow Consumer Protection BC on Twitter @ConsumerProBC, and read its blog for tips and resources.

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