INDIANAPOLIS, IN (September 28, 2015) -- Cohen & Malad, LLP filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Indiana residents improperly solicited for pre-need funeral and cemetery services by Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery.
"I was shocked to learn that Crown Hill, with its great reputation and history had been sending sales people into mental health facilities to solicit mentally ill patients," said Vess Miller, a partner with Cohen & Malad, LLP.
Deitra Covington is the legal guardian of her mentally disabled mother Vivian Jackson.
Covington is involved in almost every decision, but she had no idea about the pre-need funeral contract between her mom and Crown Hill Cemetery. The contract was signed in 2012 and costs more than $11,000.
"Her rights were violated and I feel violated as her legal guardian," said Covington.
The lawsuit alleges that Crown Hill violated the Indiana Pre-Need Act by directly soliciting patients in mental health and health care facilities for expensive prepaid cemetery and funeral arrangements.
"Who authorized her signature? I'm her legal guardian as of 2010. I'm appointed by the courts," said Covington.
Covington says she removed her mother from the 'Florence House' mental health facility after she wandered away.
"When I found out about it, I immediately took her out of the facility and into my home," said Covington.
Shortly after Jackson moved in, the bills for the pricey funeral arrangements started arriving.
"She's not at an age right now where she is knocking on death's door," said Covington.
Covington tried to get a refund from Crown Hill but was offered a smaller plot instead. The lawsuit claims that the funeral home was unwilling to give back more than $4,000 of the contract that was already paid.
“Indiana’s Pre-Need Act exists to protect vulnerable Hoosiers from improper sales tactics by cemeteries and funeral homes. It’s alarming to learn that Crown Hill has been preying on the mentally ill to increase profits. Crown Hill sold our client, a mentally ill patient in a mental health facility, an $11,000 cemetery package while her family was completely unaware and when she didn't even want buried at Crown Hill,” said attorney Vess Miller of Cohen & Malad, LLP. “We hope this lawsuit will end these outrageous practices.”
Miller suspects there are other victims and hopes the publicity of this case will help people come forward.
"We hope this will stop Crown Hill from doing this in the future," said Miller.
The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for victims who entered into contracts with and paid fees to Crown Hill while they were patients at hospitals and health care facilities.
Leaders with Crown Hill say they were surprised by the lawsuit and tell FOX59 that its legal team is reviewing the litigation and won't comment further until that process is complete.