Jon Campisi Jun. 8, 2012, 7:23am

A contract dispute between a Delaware man and a Philadelphia funeral home has led to a lawsuit being filed against the local business accusing the funeral home of maliciously shutting the plaintiff out of his deceased wife’s post-death arrangements.

North Wales, Pa. attorney Brian K. Wiley filed the civil action June 5 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Demetrius Lewis, a Delaware State resident who claims Philadelphia-based Wood Funeral Home and its officials breached their contract with the plaintiff after the man became a widower.

The complaint alleges that a contract for funeral services finalized between the funeral home and Lewis in December 2011 following the death of the plaintiff’s wife from cancer was not honored by Wood soon after its signing by all parties.

The suit claims that Wanda A. Wood, a funeral home proprietor and a defendant in the litigation, received a phone call from an attorney named Fincourt B. Shelton, another defendant named in the suit, informing Wood that he was representing the true executor of the plaintiff’s wife’s estate.

Shelton then told Wood that Lewis was not actually married to Belinda Clark, the deceased woman, and that the attorney was representing the true executor of Clark’s estate, identified as Mary Satchell.

It was at this point that the funeral home informed Lewis it was refusing to honor the recently signed contract, and “Plaintiff was frozen out of all discussions regarding his wife’s services,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint accuses Shelton, the attorney representing the alleged  true executrix of Clark’s estate, of falsely telling the funeral home that Lewis was not legally married to the deceased woman.

Contrary to these assertions, the lawsuit states, Lewis was able to obtain a copy of his marriage license from the State of Delaware, a copy of which was attached to the lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that the alleged proof of Satchell being the true executor of Clark’s estate came in the form of a “chicken-scratched note, partly written, partly printed, some in bold, some not, appearing to be written in multiple hands, notarized by Mary Satchell herself.”

“The purposed ‘will’ used by Defendants Satchell and Shelton to support their misrepresentations is, in fact, of no legal effect,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, that this is so is ready (sic) apparent, especially to someone with legal training such as Shelton, an attorney at law.”

As a result of Satchell and Shelton’s interference, the suit states, Wood Funeral Home and its agents breached its signed, written contract with Lewis, telling the man that they refused to honor the agreement and instead accepted a “lump sum” cash payment for thousands of dollars from Satchell.

“Plaintiff was excluded from participating in and planning his wife’s funeral and Wood Funeral Home, Inc. and its agents refused to communicate with him concerning the arrangements,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint also alleges that Satchell and Shelton stated publicly, on numerous occasions, and to everyone from fellow church-goers of the plaintiff’s and various family members, that Lewis was a “fraud” and was never actually married to Clark.

The badmouthing became so pervasive, the suit claims, that Lewis was shut out from a church memorial service in his deceased wife’s honor back on Dec. 14, 2011 at the behest of Shelton.

The suit also claims that Wood submitted a false death certificate to the State of Delaware based on Satchell and Shelton’s claims, and that Lewis has had trouble attempting to get the state to change the supposed incorrect information ever since.

“As a result of the actions of all Defendants, Plaintiff suffered enormous harm including the alteration of the funeral arrangements he had made for his deceased wife, his exclusion from further participating in making those arrangements, his exclusion from attendance and full participation in the funeral services themselves, immense emotional distress, public embarrassment and humiliation, and financial harm as he labored to correct the effects of their defamation and misrepresentations,” the lawsuit states.

“Said actions were particularly malicious and egregious in that they occurred in the immediate aftermath of Plaintiff losing his wife to cancer, during a time of terrible grieving, and with a finality that cannot now be undone.”

The lawsuit contains counts of breach of contract and defamation.

Lewis seeks unspecified compensatory damages, as well as damages for mental suffering and emotional anguish, punitive damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, expert witness fees and interest.

A jury trial has been demanded.


The case ID number is 120600466. 

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