California plaintiff settles litigation over 'unlawful' exhumation with Darby cemetery

By Nicholas Malfitano | May 30, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – A California plaintiff has settled litigation against a local burial company, its general manager and board president for what he had alleged was their unlawful exhumation of the body of his mother.

On Oct. 9, U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells announced she was advised by counsel for all parties concerned that the instant matter had been settled.

“Upon notification by counsel that the above-captioned matter has been settled, it is hereby ordered that the matter is marked settled and closed for statistical purposes. The court specifically retains jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement,” Wells stated.

The terms involved were not disclosed.

Shawn Porter of Sherman Oaks, Calif. first filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Jan. 23 against Eden Cemetery Company and Wilhelmina Cockroft of Darby, plus Albert F. Campbell of New York City.

On May 1, 2016, the plaintiff’s mother, Elaine Porter (a.k.a. Elaine “Cookie” Clark) passed away at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Subsequently, Shawn purchased a burial plot from the defendants to inter his mother at Eden Cemetery Company – specifically and carefully chosen because it would allow Elaine to be buried next to her own mother and other family members interred nearby.

Elaine’s funeral took place on May 10, 2016, and it was presumed she was buried in the plot that had been chosen. For the next 20 months, friends and family members paid their respects to Elaine by visiting her memorial site and leaving various mementos. After the funeral, Shawn paid for a customized headstone to be placed at the site of his mother’s grave, he said.

On Jan. 8, 2018, Shawn traveled to visit his mother’s grave and view that same headstone for the first time.

“On said date, when Porter appeared at Eden Cemetery and was unable to locate the headstone and grave, Eden’s representative provided plaintiff with the shocking, painful news that defendants had exhumed Ms. Clark, without plaintiff’s permission or consent; further, Porter was informed that upon exhumation, Eden employees moved her body to an unknown, unmarked grave, with no headstone there, at a location away from her mother and close family members,” the complaint read.

“At that time, defendants’ representative further informed plaintiff, incredulously, that the headstone purchased for his mother’s grave had been erected in a remote, rural part of Eden Cemetery, at a location where his mother was not buried, overlooking someone else’s grave. These atrocious acts by defendants are totally inexplicable, inexcusable, and fully actionable.”

Shawn claimed the defendants acted outrageously, and with “wanton, willful and reckless disregard for the rights of plaintiff, and of plaintiff’s mother, friends and family members.”

“Upon learning of these misdeeds, plaintiff asked defendants for the opportunity to view his mother’s body, to ensure that, in fact, his mother’s body is situated in the coffin in which she was presumably placed at the time of her burial (the defendants flatly rejected this request, after having first acquiesced). At that time, plaintiff also asked defendants to return Ms. Clark’s body to the original location she was buried, i.e., to the plot acquired by Porter from defendants; again, defendants flatly rejected this request. It should be noted that this request was conditioned upon Porter’s ability to view the body to ensure that Ms. Clark’s body was actually situated in the casket,” the suit stated.

Prior to settlement and for counts of trespass/interference with enjoyment of real property, negligence per se, negligence, breach of contract (express written agreement), intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff is seeking, jointly and severally, compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, costs, pre-judgment interest and such other relief as this Court may deem proper.

Furthermore, Shawn had been seeking the following injunctive relief: A court order compelling defendants to exhume his mother and permitting plaintiff to view her body; A court order compelling defendants to re-bury his mother in the exact plot which plaintiff purchased and where she was originally buried; A court order compelling defendants to issue a full and complete refund for all monies paid to defendants for burial, headstone, and related services; For costs, pre-judgment interest, and reasonable counsel fees in connection with obtaining the injunction; and for such other relief as the Court may deem proper.

The plaintiff was represented by Simon Rosen in Philadelphia.

The defendants were represented by J. Michael Kvetan of Zirulnik, Sherlock & DeMille, in Mount Laurel, N.J.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:18-cv-00290

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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