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December 20, 2014

Public meeting Friday night to discuss lawsuit over cemetery decorations

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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 8:58 pm | Updated: 9:53 pm, Fri Aug 1, 2014.

A Sylacauga couple has initiated a class action lawsuit against Evergreen Cemetery and three individuals alleging outrage, negligence/wantonness and trespass over the removal last April of personal effects from graves in the cemetery.

There will be an informational meeting tonight (Friday) at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Walnut Street in Sylacauga at 6 p.m. for community members and anyone who thinks they might have been injured by the behavior alleged in the suit. The meeting is open to the public.

According to the complaint filed in Talladega County Circuit Court in May, named plaintiff Elizabeth Grogan’s daughter, Sharon McLaughlin, died in August, 2010, and was buried in a family plot in Evergreen Cemetery. The plaintiffs regularly visited and placed memorials, flowers and other sentimental items on her grave.

Around “April 21, 2014, and continuing to the present day, defendants … went through Evergreen Cemetery and removed the memorial items and flowers left by plaintiffs on the sacred burial site of … McLaughlin and …” other deceased people. The families of these other deceased people would be the proposed class of plaintiffs.

“These memorial items were then outrageously piled up behind a storage shed and left for friends and family to pick through and scavenge, if they had knowledge of the desecration of the family burial sites and memorials,” according to the complaint.

The questions laid out in the complaint are “whether the defendants removed items from burial sites without any prior notice to the owners of said burial sites; whether the defendants gave copies of the rules and regulations of the cemetery to owners of burial sites after said rules and regulations were allegedly modified in 2003; and whether the defendants trespassed on burial sites when they removed items and flowers left on same without the permission of the owners of the burial sites.”

Under count one, the “tort of outrage,” the complaints says “the actions of the defendants … in desecrating the burial sites of Evergreen Cemetery without any legal right to do so was intentional and reckless, extreme and outrageous, and beyond the bounds of behavior that can be tolerated in a civil society.”

The plaintiffs asked for compensatory and punitive damage on all three counts.

The plaintiffs are being represented at trial by Birmingham attorneys Clay Alspaugh, Cone Owen, John Natter and David Shoel.

Owen said Thursday that the suit is still in the very early stages, and offered no specific comment other than what was outlined in the complaint.

Bill Smith of Birmingham is representing the defendants in the case. Attempts to reach Smith and the individual defendants for comment Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.

NOTE: This story was edited July 31 to reflect that Curtis and Son Funeral Home was deleted as a defendant in the case. In an order dated July 23, Circuit Judge Julian King dismissed Curtis and Son Funeral Home as a defendant, without prejudice, at the request of the plaintiffs. The case against Evergreen Cemetery will continue, according to the order.

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