Deadline for Filing a Claim Form was September 30, 2005.
Please note that claims postmarked after this date may not be accepted.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who Is A Member Of The Menorah Gardens Class Action?
Paraphrasing the order of the Court, the class has been defined as "all persons with burial plots or family members buried at Menorah Gardens and Funeral Chapels located at 21100 West Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 33332 and 9321 Memorial Park Road, West Palm Beach, Florida 33412."
2. What Is A "Class Action" And Why Is This Case A Class Action?
Class actions are lawsuits in which a large number of people are making similar claims for common injuries. In most cases, it is more economical for both the courts and the parties to have the common issues resolved in one case, as opposed to a multitude of cases. In this way, the duplication of costs and attorneys' fees is avoided. This case arose out of spacing problems at the Menorah Gardens cemeteries. These spacing problems resulted in problems which are common to a significant number of people who own plots at the cemeteries or whose loved ones have been buried at the cemeteries. After satisfying itself that the problems were numerous, that the damages caused by the problems were similar for most of the class members, and that it would be beneficial to all concerned to have these issues resolved in one case, the court certified the case as a class.
3. Who Filed The Class Action?
The Plaintiffs in the class action are Joan Light, Shirley Eisenberg, Carol Prisco and Gloria Zimmer. Through their attorneys, (click here for a description of the attorneys) the class action was filed against the owners of the cemeteries in Broward County, Florida, Circuit Court. The owners consist of a large corporation in Houston, Texas named Service Corporation International, Inc. and its wholly owned Florida subsidiary corporation, SCI Funeral Services of Florida, Inc. Throughout the litigation and in these Frequently Asked Questions, they are referred to as SCI.
4. What Claims Did The Class Representatives File Against SCI?
The class action contained several distinct claims which arose from the same alleged conduct. In layman's terms, the claims were to recover damages for emotional distress associated with the problems created by not having enough space to conduct proper burials, a claim to force SCI to fix the spacing problems, a claim for unfair and deceptive trade practices, a claim for failing to properly maintain the cemeteries as required by Florida regulations and a claim for negligence. After a week long hearing, the Court ruled that a claim for punitive damages should also be allowed.
5. How Much Money Has SCI Agreed To Pay In These Settlements?
This is a three part answer. A total of $100,000,000 has been deposited into trust accounts under the control of the court. $65,000,000 of that amount is being reserved for class claim distribution. The remaining $35,000,000 is being used to resolve a variety of other cases against SCI, including egregious individual claims brought by class counsel and whistle blower cases. In another case, brought by the Florida Attorney General, SCI agreed to pay over $14,000,000; and in the class claim, SCI has agreed to spend whatever it takes to fix the cemetery.
6. Who Gets The Money?
The $65,000,000.00 has been apportioned so that $40,000,000.00 is for compensatory damages and $25,000,000.00 is for punitive damages. The $65,000,000.00 will be available to pay claims of class who suffered cognizable damages and attorneys' fees and costs. The attorneys have asked the court to award a fee based on the number of hours spent on the case, the risk incurred and the reasonable hourly rate that the attorneys charge for their time. It is anticipated that the money from the Attorney General's settlement will be added to the class settlement so that when distributions are made, there will be even more money available.
7. What is Happening With the Settlement?
The judge held hearings October 17, 2005 regarding the claims process, heard argument from amicus regarding who will be able to recover, the process for hearings on recovery, and the schedule for the remainder of the case. Once orders are entered, they will be posted on the website along with explanations of the Court's rulings. We expect this to occur within the month.
8. What is Happening Next?
Claims hearings will begin February 2006, in front of a special master. Claimants can waive the right to have these hearings, choosing instead to have their damages presented by counsel to a special master. Claimants will be notified of their hearing date at least 6 weeks in advance of the hearing by class counsel. Claims hearings will occur on a rolling basis as the examiner completes his investigation of each of the graves for which a claim was made. Notification will occur on that same rolling basis over an extended period of time. No monetary decisions will be made until all hearings have been concluded.
9. How Long will this Process Take?
At this time, we do not know how long the claims process will take. That is highly dependent on how many claimants with a right to recovery choose to testify in front of the special master. As more information becomes available, the Garden City Group will be advised and the website will be updated.
10. What is the Garden City Group?
Garden City Group is the company appointed by the court to assist in administering the class action claims. The efficiencies offered by utilizing their services reduce claims administration expenses for the class, thus leaving more money for class distribution.
11. What if My Questions Are Not Answered Here?
You can get answers to additional questions by writing to or calling the Garden City Group. Their address is: Menorah Gardens Class Action Inquiries, The Garden City Group, Inc., P.O. Box 9349, Dublin, OH 43017-4249. The telephone number is: 1 (866) 808-3581.
12. Am I Going To Get Money From This Case? When Am I Going To Get Money?
Whether you receive a cash settlement will depend upon the extent your rights have been violated and how many claimants there are. Distributions will be determined by the Examiner and approved by the Court after all claims have been reviewed by the Examiner. No monetary decisions will be made until all hearings have been concluded.
13. Will I Be Able To Find Out The Status Of My Loved One's Remains? When?
Yes. Once your claim has been submitted, the Examiner will conduct an investigation into your individual claim under the supervision of the Blue Ribbon Panel and the Court. You will then be notified of the results of this investigation.
14. Is Menorah Gardens Still In Business? Can I Still Visit The Cemetery?
Yes. SCI continues to operate the two Menorah Gardens cemeteries under direct Court supervision. You are free to visit the cemeteries during regular operating hours.
15. Is My Claim Going To Be Administered Per Surviving Relative Or Per Burial Space?
The Court will determine who will be able to receive the settlement proceeds and will be guided by legal and equitable considerations. Each person who believes they have a claim should individually submit a class action claim form.
16. Are My Future Plots Still Available For My Use?
Yes. However, under the settlement, if your plots are unusable, you will be issued new plots at the expense of SCI. This was one of the substantial provisions of the equitable remedies the class plaintiffs were able to achieve in their negotiations with SCI.
17. If I Die Before I Receive Money From The Class Action, Will My Children/Relatives Receive My Portion?
Such occurrences will need to be addressed by the Court on a case by case basis as they arise. If you consider this a likely possibility, then it is highly suggested that you and your family consult an estate planning attorney as soon as possible.
18. Will My Loved One's Body/Bodies Be Disinterred Or Disturbed In Any Way During The Investigation
Great care will be taken to avoid disturbing interred remains. Typically, examinations involve a procedure called "tapping" or "probing." In this process, a metal probe is tapped into the ground. When the probe hits the outer concrete vault, measurements are made and compared to a surveyed reference point. Investigations are not done by digging, though sometimes, in the process of interring or disinterring a decedent, evidence is discovered which may be used in determining the status of adjoining burials.
19. If I Receive Settlement Funds, Will The Amount Be Taxable By The Government?
You will need to consult your own tax attorney or professional to resolve this question. Class counsel will not offer any advice on this issue as they express no expertise in this area of law.
20. If I Change My Address/Phone Number/Name, Whom Do I Need To Inform?
The Garden City Group should be advised of any such changes. They can be reached at: Menorah Gardens Class Action Inquiries, The Garden City Group, Inc., P.O. Box 9349, Dublin, OH 43017-9249.
21. How Will The Cemetery Be Re-Sanctified?
Once all of the claims have been resolved, re-sanctification will be supervised by the Blue Ribbon Panel, upon which sits the world's foremost recognized expert in Jewish burial law, Rabbi Maurice Lamm. The Blue Ribbon Panel has been working with the Menorah Gardens staff to ready the cemeteries for re-sanctification. When the re-santification ceremony is scheduled, we will post an invitation to all class members on the website, and all are welcome to attend that event.
22. Where Are The Attorneys' Fees Coming From?
A portion of the $65,000,000.00 case settlement will be used to compensate the attorneys for their fees and the costs they have incurred and are expected to incur through the date of re-sanctification and completion of the settlement process.
23. Will I Be Assured That My Loved One's Body Is Where It Is Supposed To Be?
Yes. SCI has undertaken this responsibility, and the Examiner will conduct an investigation into your claim to ensure the location of your loved one.
24. The Examiner Told Me That My Loved One's Grave Has No Problems And Has Not Been Disturbed. Would I Still Be Included In The Class Action?
Yes. This finding means you are not entitled to any monetary compensation. However, you will receive the benefit of the correction of the problems in the cemeteries as well as the oversight of cemetery operations by the Examiner, his staff, and the Blue Ribbon Panel. The process of re-sanctification and knowledge of where your loved one is buried will be of benefit to all who own plots or whose loved ones are buried at the Menorah Gardens cemeteries.
25. I Have A Pre-Need Contract With Menorah Gardens. Should I Continue To Make Payments On The Contract?
Yes. Failure to make payments may result in losing title to the plot(s). With the loss of title, you may lose any claim which would otherwise be payable under the class settlement.