When Can You Sue a Cemetery in Alabama? | Belt, Bruner & Barnett P.C.

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When Can You Sue a Cemetery in Alabama?

Mar 25, 2024 | Personal Injury

A cemetery should be a sacred place of respect where your loved ones are laid to rest and memorialized. As such, Alabama courts hold cemeteries and funeral homes to a high standard of respect and care.

If your loved one’s remains are handled improperly or carelessly, you may have legal recourse.

What Is Cemetery Negligence?

Cemetery negligence occurs when a cemetery service provider, such as a funeral home, fails to adhere to proper procedure, maintenance, or contractual obligations. Negligence can cause the decedent’s family and loved ones harm and emotional distress.

Common Types of Cemetery Negligence

Cemetery negligence can occur in several ways, such as:

Mishandling of Bodies

As unpleasant as the possibility is to think about, bodies can be mishandled by the funeral home you entrust. This includes errors made in preparation, losing or cremating the wrong body, or failing to follow proper storage or embalming procedures.

Negligence can also occur in burial practices, such as burying a body in the wrong plot, at an incorrect depth, or burying multiple bodies in a private plot or coffin.

Damage to Gravesites

Cemeteries are responsible to people who have buried their loved ones on the land. Allowing damage to gravesites can constitute negligence — for example, sinking graves, broken or missing headstones, or damage caused by machinery during maintenance work.

Failure to Maintain Grounds

Cemetery grounds should be maintained and kept safe for visitors. Neglecting upkeep, allowing hazardous conditions, or failing to address environmental issues that damage graves could be considered negligence. Lack of security can also lead to harm if gravesites are looted, vandalized, or desecrated.

Can You Sue a Cemetery for Negligence in Alabama?

You may wonder who is responsible if your loved one’s remains or grave are mishandled. In Alabama, you may be able to sue a funeral home or cemetery for negligence and recover financial compensation. There are three main avenues an attorney might pursue in your negligence lawsuit:

1. Breach of Contract

Suing for breach of contract involves showing that the cemetery or funeral home failed to fulfill its obligations outlined in the contract. You’ll need strong evidence for a successful claim.

The key requirements are a valid contract outlining agreed-upon services, a clear breach by the cemetery or funeral home (such as failing to deliver services, mishandling remains, or overcharging), and proof of damages you suffered (financial loss or emotional distress).

Your attorney can analyze the contract’s language and identify specific instances where the cemetery failed to meet its obligations. In addition, your lawyer can gather evidence such as receipts, witness statements, and correspondence between you and the service provider to support your claim.

2. Negligence

Suing a cemetery or funeral home for negligence requires proving they failed in their duty of care towards your loved one or the gravesite. This involves several steps:

  1. Demonstrate a legal duty of care existed. In signing a contract with a funeral home, you expected them and the cemetery to meet their obligation to treat remains and burial procedures respectfully and professionally.
  2. Prove a breach of the duty of care by showing the cemetery or funeral home acted negligently, such as in any of the examples outlined above.
  3. Demonstrate this breach caused you harm. This could be emotional distress from mishandling remains, financial loss due to needing to fix their mistakes, or property damage at the gravesite.

You’ll also need evidence to support your claim, such as contracts, receipts, photos of damage, and witness statements, which your attorney can help compile.

3. Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation occurs if the cemetery or funeral home provides false or misleading information regarding their services, products, or contract terms. This could include misleading advertising, false promises regarding the quality of services, or providing inaccurate information about burial plots or pricing.

A typical example of this is misrepresenting a “green burial,” performing a service different from what the customer expected, or providing a service the family would not have chosen if the contract had been clear. As with other lawsuits, evidence is vital to support your claim.

This could include brochures with misleading information, emails or recordings of conversations where false promises were made or altered contracts not reflecting your agreed-upon services.

What Can You Recover in a Cemetery Negligence Lawsuit?

You could recover compensation for a few types of damages in a cemetery negligence lawsuit:

  • Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for actual losses incurred as a result of the negligence. This may include compensation for expenses such as repairing damaged gravesites, replacing stolen or vandalized property, or correcting errors made by the cemetery.
  • Emotional distress damages can be awarded for anguish or suffering you endured due to the desecration of a loved one’s gravesiteTop of Form

The damages recoverable in a cemetery negligence lawsuit depend on the circumstances of the case and the discretion of the court. Work with a cemetery negligence attorney in Alabama who is familiar with state law and can help determine the compensation you could recover in your case.

Call Our Cemetery Negligence Attorneys Today

Learning your loved one’s remains have been mishandled or their gravesite has been damaged can be devastating. If you believe a cemetery or funeral home was negligent, call Belt, Bruner & Barnett P.C. today.

Our attorneys have years of experience fighting for cemetery or funeral home negligence victims in Alabama. We understand the emotional turmoil and pain negligence can cause; that’s why we handle all the legal details so you can focus on grieving and healing.

Call (205) 933-1500 today or contact us to schedule a free consultation.