Suit Against N.H.- Mass. Crematorium Becomes Class Action

October 16, 2006

A judge has ruled that a lawsuit against the owners of the Bayview Crematorium in Seabrook, New Hampshire, where dozens of families believed their loved ones’ remains were mistreated, can be classified as a class-action lawsuit.

About 25 plaintiffs have signed onto the lawsuit. Last year, police said they discovered that remains at the crematorium were mishandled, mislabeled and mistreated.

Investigators said they discovered a body decomposing in an unrefrigerated unit; unlabeled urns of ashes; and more than one body was being burned at a time.

“One client in particular, Michael Ellis, has had his wife’s remains analyzed and found they include orthopedic hardware and jewelry that did not belong to her,” said lawyer Chris Grant, who is representing the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges negligence in the handling of bodies, consumer protection violations and misrepresentation against operators Derek Wallace and Linda Stokes, as well as Simplicity Burial and Cremation Services Inc. of Massachusetts.

The plaintiffs have not specified an exact dollar amount for damages, but Grant said it could reach into the millions of dollars.

Grant said that if a judgment is eventually granted, the money would come from Wallace and Stokes’ property in Massachusetts. He said the majority would come from insurance.

“We also have information that there is liability insurance that covers the negligence we’re claiming in this case,” Grant said.

A key witness in the case, James Fuller, died last month of cancer. He was a former worker at the crematorium and had been expected to testify at related trials.

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