Yesterday, a 73 year old Philadelphia women filed a class-action lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, accusing the owners of a local Jewish cemetery, Shalom Memorial Park, of selling the same burial plots to multiple purchasers and then packing in bodies so tightly that they actually overlap or touch. One of those owners, funeral giant Service Corporation International (“SCI”), has previously been sued in class actions in both Florida and California for the same types of practices in other cemeteries. In both of those prior cases, SCI paid over $60 million to settle the matters.
According to the lawsuit filed, former employees of SCI have admitted that Shalom Memorial Park has a long-standing practice of “overselling” the number of available burial plots, forcing the cemetery’s owners to pack bodies too close together, to encroach on existing graves when they bury new bodies, and to bury multiple persons in overlapping gravesites.
In the complaint filed, Plaintiff Maya Devinskaya, a 73 year old widow living in Philadelphia, recounts how she buried her daughter in a burial plot purchased from the owners of Shalom Memorial Park, only to discover a year later that the cemetery had previously sold a portion of that same plot to another family, and that the bodies of both families’ loved ones were buried in overlapping graves. Devinskaya is now being asked by allow Shalom Memorial Park to allow the cemetery to disinter her daughter’s body and re-bury it elsewhere, an act which is strongly discouraged under Jewish law.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by the firms of DeNittis Osefchen of Marlton and Bochetto & Lentz of Philadelphia. Speaking as to the lawsuit, attorney Stephen P. DeNittis stated:
“This case does not involve a movie theatre or a commercial airliner, where they try to boost profits by squeezing people closer and closer together. The bodies of deceased loved ones deserve to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. The goal of this lawsuit is to try to restore dignity and respect to these grieving families and to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again.”