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Suit Against Calif. Cemeteries Moves Forward

The California Supreme Court upheld class-action status for a lawsuit alleging gross misconduct by a Jewish funeral services provider that had paid a $100 settlement over similar misconduct.

On Monday, the court upheld a lower court ruling on the suit against Texas-based Service Corporation International alleging mass desecration of grave sites at a Jewish cemetery in Mission Hills, Calif., clearing the way for families to collectively seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have estimated damages at more than $500 million. A trial was scheduled for Oct. 15.

The lawsuit, filed in September 2009, claims that SCI and its employees purposely desecrated hundreds of Jewish graves and improperly disposed of human remains and bones in mass graves in order to make room for new burials, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

The lawsuit alleges that groundskeepers were repeatedly instructed by cemetery management to secretly break concrete vaults with a backhoe and remove, dump and discard the human remains – including human skulls – to make room for new burials in the interest of increased profits.

In 2003, SCI agreed to a $100 million settlement with Menorah Gardens in Southwest Ranches, Fla., after being accused of misplacing bodies, smashing vaults and overselling plots at its graveyards near Palm Beach Gardens and Fort Lauderdale.

SCI, along with other companies, also is facing a $200 million lawsuit in Florida for desecrating burial plots and placing the wrong bodies in several gravesites.

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