Lawsuit Filed Against Funeral Homes In Illegal Cemetery Case

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(Memphis) On the same day the state ruled to take over a Bartlett cemetery, two families filed a class action lawsuit against the cemetery and two funeral homes.

The families have loved ones buried there and are seeking up to $100 million in damages.

Investigators said Galilee Memorial Gardens, which lost its license in January 2011, stacked caskets and piled bodies in graves to make more room on their 9-acre site.

Last month, 38-year-old Jemar Lambert was charged with theft of property over $1,000 and abuse of a corpse.

The lawsuit, filed in Chancery Court reads, "Every funeral home that did business with Galilee after December 1, 2010, knew or should have known that this cemetery was not a proper and lawful agent for the burial of human remains."

The lawsuit states N.J. Ford and Sons and M.J. Edwards and Sons funeral homes played a part in the problems.

"They knew or should have known Galilee was not licensed. All they had to do was type in the name in the state website, and they would have known," said Howard Manis, the attorney representing the two families.

WREG stopped by both funeral homes. Employees at both places said they haven't seen the lawsuit.

An employee at the front door at N.J. Ford and Sons said he never knew Galilee lost its license, and it's not the funeral home's job to continuously check a cemetery's license.

Manis said both funeral homes will be served by Tuesday afternoon and that's just the start.He said this lawsuit plans to include every funeral home that did business with Galilee after it lost its license. We're told it could be years before a settlement is reached.

The state ruled to take over Galilee, and WREG has learned former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff is expected to audit the business.

Manis wonders why the state did not shut down Galilee, and WREG wondered the same thing when we told you Lambert was indicted last year on charges of theft for reportedly selling burial plots on land not owned by the cemetery in February 2012.

WREG pressed the state on the issue last summer and into fall, and we were told it stayed open to perform previously paid burials.

If you have any questions about your contracts or burial site at Galilee, call the state's Burial Services at 615-741-5062. Anyone with criminal complaints, call the Shelby County District Attorney's office at 901-222-1300.

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