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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cemetery Loses Bid to Arbitrate Plot Mix-Up

(CN) - A cemetery in Texas can't force three families to arbitrate claims that the cemetery sold them the same burial plot and tried to cover up the mistake, a state appeals court ruled.

Plaintiff Petra Lopez bought four adjoining plots in 1976 from Highland Memorial Park. Nearly 20 years later, she asked that her mother be buried in one of the plots. The cemetery told Lopez that it had mistakenly buried Rodolfo Garza in that plot, but said it would relocate him.

The cemetery disinterred Garza and moved his body, without his family's knowledge or permission, to a plot it had already sold to the Rogers family. When the Rogers visited to scope out the plots in 2002, the defendant allegedly "removed Garza's headstone, threw it in the weeds behind the cemetery, and denied that Garza ever possessed a headstone," the ruling states.

All three families sued, claiming breach of contract.

The 13th District Court of Appeals refused to enforce the parties' "illusory" arbitration clause, because it gave the cemetery the sole discretion to void the contract based on an "unforeseen contingency" or "mistake."

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