Fla. Cemetery Ordered to Find Buyer or Lose License

May 25, 2004

Florida’s Restlawn Memorial Cemetery Inc., has agreed to sell its operation to a state-approved buyer or face revocation of its license in response to charges that it failed to maintain gravesites and grounds, resolve long-standing consumer complaints, and deliver paid merchandise, such as tombstones and vaults, to customers.

The agreement, between Restlawn and the Florida Department of Financial Services, was signed last week after being approved by the Board of Funeral and Cemetery Services. The agreement also places Restlawn’s license on six months’ probation and requires the company to pay a $15,000 fine. A cemetery management consultant also must continue on-site management until the sale or transfer of Restlawn.

“Families expect their loved ones to be treated with respect and dignity and to know that what they paid for will be delivered,” said Tom Gallagher, the state’s Chief Financial Officer and head of the Department of Financial Services. “Blatant disregard for consumers and the law will not be tolerated.”

Other violations cited in the department’s administrative complaint include failure to put money in a reserve account to meet the obligations of pre-need contracts and keep a proper accounting of pre-need and at-need contracts that were sold. The agreement reached requires Restlawn to restore those deficiencies and provide the department with a weekly sales and revenue report.

Restlawn, owned by HIG Corporation, is a for-profit cemetery and has been in operation since 1929. The cemetery previously entered a consent agreement with the former Department of Banking and Finance in which they committed to resolve consumer complaints, care and maintenance problems, and properly reserve funds.

In January 2003, regulation of cemeteries and funeral homes that sell pre-need merchandise and services transferred to the Department of Financial Services, who determined violations continued.

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