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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Wins Ruling Over Stranger in Burial Plot

(CN) - A cemetery's customer suffered emotional distress when a stranger was buried next to the customer's mother in a plot reserved for the customer, a California appeals court ruled.

Kenneth Bruce Binns sued Westminster Memorial Park after discovering that his final resting place was already occupied by a woman named Maria Vallejo.

"Once a cemetery operator inters the remains of one family member in one of several adjacent family plots," the 4th District Court of Appeals wrote, "the specific remains of the remaining plots become dramatically more important."

The mistake occurred due to an oversight involving the cemetery's Card-based system of recording burial plots.

"Imposing a duty on defendant in the present situation would further the goal of preventing future harm by encouraging cemetery operators to update their filing systems," Justice Aronson wrote.

This duty only applies when at least one family member has already been buried, Aronson ruled.

"Because burying a stranger in a family plot adjacent to one's parents may engender intense feelings based on religious, emotional or ethical concerns, it is foreseeable serious emotional distress could result."

The court upheld the lower court's judgment for the plaintiff and order denying attorney fees.

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