As injury lawyers in Chicago, we are honored to have represented many families in times of need. For many of our clients, a proper burial represented closure to a tragic chapter in their families history. Now we have learned that a Chicago-land cemetery that many of our clients entrusted with their loved ones has destroyed this bond.
The crimes committed at Burr Oak Cemetery, are a shameful example of complete disrespect to these families. State and federal authorities have determined Burr Oak Cemetery employees dug up at least 200 to 300 bodies and dumped the remains in order to resell the plots. So far, four cemetery workers have been charged with felony-related charges of dismembering a human body. If convicted, the employees face a possible 30 year prison term.
State Representative Bobby Rush, who represents the district where Burr Oak is located, is pushing for new federal legislation to oversee cemeteries in Illinois to prevent future cemetery crime. However, the federal government has yet to take action to provide more oversight to prevent cemetery abuse even after several high profile cases in other states in 2002.
Cases involving cemetery misconduct can occur where: the body is buried in the wrong location; the body is placed in the wrong casket; head stones are discarded or even in situations similar to the atrocities that occurred at Burr Oak. When a loved one dies, the family puts their trust in a cemetery to lay their family member to rest. However, this trust is not always respected, as was the case at Burr Oak Cemetery. In these situations, the cemetery and its workers can be held liable for their participation in the mishandling of the burial of your loved one.
Family members have several options in order to find justice in situations involving mishandling of remains including the following lawsuits: dismembering a human body, negligent cemetery operations, intentional infliction of emotional distress / negligent infliction of emotional distress arising from negligent mishandling of a corpse, interference with the right of the next of kin to possess and preserve the body of the deceased, and desecration.
Mishandling of a corpse involves situations where a person intentionally, recklessly, or negligently removes, withholds, mutilates, or operates upon the body of a dead person or prevents its proper interment or cremation. In these situations, the family member, who has the right to control the body, may bring an action against the wrongdoer pursuant to the Cemetery Protection Act (765 ILCS 835).
The recent events at Burr Oak Cemetery make obvious the need for more regulatory oversight of cemeteries in Illinois. This is essential to protecting the sanctity of the final resting place of your loved one. If your family has been affected by cemetery wrongdoing at Burr Oak, there are options available to hold wrongdoers responsible. We remain available for a case consultations regarding this disturbing event.
Whether you live in Chicago-land or across the country, we are available to discuss your concerns regarding this tragedy. (800) 926-7565
Courtney v. St. Joseph Hospital (149 Ill. App. 3d 397 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1986)