MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Relatives of people buried at a Tennessee cemetery are suing its owner and funeral homes that sent bodies there, alleging the cemetery moved remains without permission and placed stacked several caskets in one plot.
A complaint filed Sunday claims Galilee Memorial Gardens operated without a valid license, misplaced or lost track of buried remains and stacked multiple caskets in single burial plots — sometimes by crushing caskets to make them fit.
The suit was filed by lawyers for relatives of two people buried at the cemetery in suburban Bartlett, outside Memphis. Two funeral homes that sent bodies to Galilee for burial also are being sued, with plaintiffs alleging they should have been informed that family members were being sent to an unlicensed cemetery.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status for relatives of people buried at the cemetery since Dec. 31 2010, when the suit claims the cemetery's license expired. The class could number into the hundreds.
Cemetery owner Jemar Lambert was arrested Jan. 24 on charges that three bodies were buried in the same grave without permission. He has a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday on charges of abuse of a corpse and theft.
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has filed a request for a temporary restraining order, shutting down the cemetery. The state also is seeking to take over the cemetery's operations.
Lambert's lawyer in the criminal case did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A telephone line for one of Lambert's businesses named in the suit was disconnected. The Associated Press could not immediately determine who is representing Lambert in the civil case.
Edgar Miller, chief of operations for N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home, declined comment. A message left seeking comment from M.J. Edwards Funeral Home was not immediately returned.
Plaintiff's lawyers also are seeking damages up to $100 million in damages.