Dallas Jury Issues Unanimous Negligence Finding Against Dallas' Restland Funeral Home in Wrongful Disinterment Lawsuit

Friday, February 8, 2019 Medico Legal News
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Funeral home moved man's parents without his knowledge, permission

DALLAS, Feb. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A unanimous Texas jury has issued a finding of

negligence against Dallas' Restland Funeral Home and Cemetery and awarded $200,000 to a man whose parents were wrongly disinterred from their chosen gravesite and moved to another facility without his knowledge or permission.

The jury of nine women and three men issued the February 7 verdict in favor of Dallas entrepreneur Louis Dorfman following two days of testimony and roughly five hours of deliberations. The jury award is based on Restland's negligence and the mental anguish Mr. Dorfman has experienced as a result.

The Dallas County District Attorney's Office has named a special prosecutor to determine if a crime was committed when Mr. Dorfman's parents were moved. You can see a related news story from KTVT-CBS 11 here.

The case tried before Judge Eric Moyé of Dallas' 14th Civil District Court is Dorfman v. NorthStar Funeral Services of Texas, LLC d/b/a Restland Funeral Home & Cemetery, No. DC-18-07308.

As part of the lawsuit, Restland officials testified under oath that they will disinter and move a person's body to another cemetery based on a request from whomever claims to be the deceased's next of kin – even if that claim has not been researched or confirmed by any means.

Privately held NorthStar, which owns Restland, is one of the country's top providers of funeral services, with more than 75 affiliates in 11 states. Mr. Dorfman, founder of Dallas' Dorfman Investment Co., is an oil and gas operator, attorney and animal rights activist.

Jurors heard how Restland disinterred Mr. Dorfman's parents and moved them to Sparkman/Hillcrest in 2015 after his niece and nephew, Stacey Dorfman Kivowitz and Grant Dorfman, signed paperwork wrongly claiming to be the couple's closest living relatives.

Ms. Kivowitz and Grant Dorfman requested the disinterment in September 2014, the day before their father, Samuel Dorfman (Louis Dorfman's brother and business partner), was interred at Sparkman/Hillcrest. That same day, The Dallas Morning News published an obituary for Samuel Dorfman that identified Louis Dorfman as his surviving brother.

Louis Dorfman learned about his parents' disinterment more than a year later, after his son visited Sparkman/Hillcrest and discovered his grandparents had been moved there. Mr. Dorfman's parents' names are still intact on their empty crypts at Restland.

Prior to her death, Mr. Dorfman's mother requested that she be interred side by side with Mr. Dorfman's father at Restland. Mr. Dorfman says even though everyone in his family was aware of his mother's wishes, his parents were not placed side by side when they were reinterred at Sparkman/Hillcrest.

Michael W. Day, the General Manager of Cemetery Operations for Restland, and Amie D. Douglas, a funeral director at Restland, both testified under oath during depositions about the troubling scenario that led to Mr. Dorfman's parents being moved from one cemetery to the other without his being told.

In her deposition, Ms. Douglas testified that she handled the disinterment of Mr. Dorfman's parents, including driving the van that transported their remains to Sparkman/Hillcrest.

Ms. Douglas confirmed that when someone requests a disinterment, it is Restland's policy to accept that person's word "on good faith" that they are the next of kin. Under Texas law, a body may be disinterred only if the closest next of kin consents and signs a next-of-kin consent form that is required to obtain a state permit.

Ms. Douglas also testified that, per Restland's policy, she did no additional research to confirm whether the niece and nephew were truly Mr. Dorfman's parents' closest next of kin even though she had never met them before. She confirmed that she did not conduct a Google search or review the obituaries for Mr. Dorfman's parents, which listed him as their son.

When asked if she felt Mr. Dorfman was owed an apology, Ms. Douglas replied, "I don't feel that I've done anything wrong."

In his deposition, Mr. Day testified that he agreed that Ms. Douglas did nothing wrong in her handling of the disinterment and that he also believes she does not owe Mr. Dorfman an apology. He also said Restland currently maintains the same policy of not confirming that someone is indeed the next closest of kin when a disinterment is requested.

When questioned about whether Restland will amend its policies based on Mr. Dorfman's complaint, Mr. Day testified that Restland will not change, even though Mr. Dorfman's attorney noted that a simple online search could have prevented this harm to Mr. Dorfman and the separation of his parents at the location they chose.

Mr. Dorfman says he is grateful the jury found that Restland was negligent, and that he was stunned by the admissions from Mr. Day and Ms. Douglas.

"It is impossible to describe the feeling of knowing that your parents' final wish to rest side by side for eternity has been dishonored," Mr. Dorfman says. "To hear Restland's own employees say they wouldn't do anything differently is heartbreaking. It's also scary since this could well happen to someone else based on Restland's current policies. My hope is today's verdict will prevent something like this from ever happening again."

For more information on the lawsuit, contact Bruce Vincent at 214-763-6226 or bruce.vincent@musecommunicationsllc.com.

Cision View original content:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dallas-jury-issues-unanimous-negligence-finding-against-dallas-restland-funeral-home-in-wrongful-disinterment-lawsuit-300792387.html

SOURCE Louis Dorfman

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