$200M Lawsuit Against Jewish Memorial Chapel in South Florida Alleges Desecration of Graves, Improper Handling of Human Remains - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, November 30, 2023

$200M Lawsuit Against Jewish Memorial Chapel in South Florida Alleges Desecration of Graves, Improper Handling of Human Remains

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A Jewish cemetery (illustrative example)The law offices of Eagan Avenatti, together with well known South Florida Attorney Edward M. Ricci, filed a Class Action Lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County, Florida last Thursday (Apr. 5), alleging morally despicable, illegal and unlawful business practices at Star of David Memorial Gardens Cemetery in North Lauderdale, Florida. The Complaint names Service Corporation International (“SCI”) and SCI’s subsidiary, SCI Funeral Services of Florida, Inc., amongst others, as Defendants.

The Complaint alleges that SCI and Star of David have engaged in a pervasive, multi-year practice of losing human remains, burying individuals in the wrong grave space, crushing burial containers, secretly digging up human remains and moving them without notification to the families, and improperly disposing of burial containers and other burial effects in a lake located at the edge of the cemetery.

Further, the lawsuit claims that rather than go through the necessary steps to move a burial container when it is discovered encroaching on another plot, Defendants’ groundskeepers were repeatedly instructed by management at the cemetery to secretly break and crush the container in order to make room for new interments. According to the Complaint, the Defendants took considerable steps to conceal their fraudulent and illegal conduct by literally burying the evidence underground and threatening employees and witnesses with retaliation and the loss of their jobs if they told the families affected.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time SCI has faced allegations of mass grave desecrations in South Florida. In 2001-2002, SCI was caught engaging in similar conduct in connection with their operation of two other Jewish cemeteries in South Florida known as Menorah Gardens. SCI was later charged criminally in connection with their conduct at Menorah and was forced to pay over $100 million in fines, damages, and penalties to resolve the criminal and civil litigation that resulted, including numerous cases brought by Mr. Ricci.

In addition, SCI is presently a defendant in another grave desecration lawsuit pending in Los Angeles, Sands v. Service Corporation International, which alleges similar conduct. Earlier, the judge in that case, the Hon. Anthony Mohr, severely sanctioned SCI for purposely destroying and tampering with physical evidence relating to their liability.

“Cemeteries are supposed to provide dignity to the dead and peace to the families,” said Michael Avenatti of Eagan Avenatti, LLP. “The moving of human remains and dumping of burial containers with management’s knowledge is simply despicable. One would have thought that SCI would have learned its lesson after Menorah Gardens – they clearly did not. We look forward to bringing this case to trial and doing our best to see that SCI is banned from operating or owning a cemetery in the state.”


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