Tri-State Crematory Litigation

The nation was horrified when facts came to light that an unlicensed crematory operator had discarded over 1,000 bodies on his property in Noble, Georgia. David Randolph Smith filed the first case, a class action suit, and was Class Counsel in the federal court trial in Rome, Georgia. Mr. Smith engaged The Fleissner Firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee as co-counsel for the plaintiffs. The firm worked with the national law firm of Lieff Cabraser to prosecute the case and bring the case to a conclusion via settlement after seven days of trial.

Settlements:

  • On March 11, 2004 the funeral homes settled in the second week of the trial for $40 million.
  • On August 26, 2004 the Marshes agreed to a settlement for $80 million. As part of the settlement the crematory site is being returned to a natural state, as shown by this photograph taken May 2, 2005:

One of the purposes of tort law, in addition to compensation, is deterrence. Holding funeral homes and the Marshes accountable for what happened at the Tri-State Crematory will change funeral industry practices and prevent crematory abuses from happening again.For example, the February 2004 issue of Funeral Director, the industry’s leading trade publication, has a front page article titled, Crematory Due Diligence: The procedures and forms your funeral home needs to conduct due diligence when it utilizes third-party crematories. The article states:

  • “Funeral homes that use outside crematories are hiring third parties to provide an integral part of the services they have sold to a family. As such, the funeral home has a responsibility to the family to ensure that the crematory will carry out the cremation in a legal, professional and ethical manner. The best method to obtain these assurances, and to protect the funeral homes from liability in case of a problem at the crematory, is to carry out the four-step due-diligence process outlined in this section.”

 NFDA Crematory Due Diligence Guidelines

We are honored to have handled this case and thank all of our clients, experts and co-counsel who worked so hard to bring this case to a successful conclusion.