Attorneys for those suing Grand View Memorial Park soon will get a look at the park's documents.
By ANTHONY KIM
Glendale News Press
LOS ANGELES — Attorneys in the civil lawsuits against Grand View Memorial Park soon will be able to review critical burial records seized from the beleaguered Glendale cemetery more than a year ago.
The records — which include cemetery contracts, plot cards and copies of death certificates — arrived at a document depository in the City of Commerce on Tuesday, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state's Attorney General's office.
"The documents are key to understanding the cemetery's operations and the problems with the cemetery's operations," said attorney Paul Ayers, who represents many who are filing suit against the cemetery. "I'm looking forward to seeing them."
More than 140 people have joined lawsuits against the cemetery, Ayers said.
"The attorney general has graciously allowed us to have the documents through [a court order]…. The order allowed release to the document depository for the civil lawsuits," said Milton Friedman, director of legal administration for Arias, Ozzello & Gignac, LLP, another of the firms representing those filing suit against Grand View.
The attorney general's order releasing the records came on Feb. 28 after a request from attorneys in the civil suit.
The legal action was kicked off by the discovery in October 2005 of thousands of cremated remains at the cemetery that were never buried or properly disposed of. Investigators from the California Department of Consumer Affairs seized the cemetery's records in November 2005.
Other remains at the cemetery site "were found in a dumpster on the property or spilled on the floor," court documents said.
The cemetery owner and operator — the late Marsha Lee Howard who died Nov. 4, 2006 — was relieved of her duties after investigations began and cemetery director Moshe Goldsman stepped in as temporary operator. But since the state prohibited the cemetery from conducting new business, he was forced to shut its gates on June 13.
Families of people buried at Grand View filed a civil lawsuit against Howard, Goldsman and the cemetery in November 2005. Their complaints for damages include negligence and breach of contract, among other things, court documents said.
The newly received cemetery records could help address concerns about the fate of loved ones and their pre-bought plots, Ayers said.
But before that can happen, the lawyers representing Grand View and its operators will take a first look at them, Friedman said.
Attorneys on the plaintiff side will most likely get access in April, he said. But making sense of the records may take a while.
"There are 40,000-something people buried there," Friedman said. "So there are more than 40,000 records."
A number of individuals who bought plots at Grand View before the legal battles began have contacted the attorneys to have their family members buried, or exhumed, from the cemetery.
The remains of Geneva Hegemier were interred in a Grand View mausoleum on Feb. 2, the first interment service on the cemetery in nearly a year.
On March 20, the remains of Esther Lohr were buried in a shared plot with her husband Lee Frank Lohr, who was buried in Grand View in 2001.
A few individuals will be disinterred from Grand View in the upcoming weeks, including the parents of former Glendale mayor Robert W. Garcin.
Because of their experience in these earlier cases, attorneys can better help people inter and disinter loved ones at the cemetery at their own expense, Ayers said.
But the cemetery's ultimate fate is yet unclear, he said. Cases similar to Grand View's have lasted more than seven years, he said.
The next status hearing for the Grand View Memorial Park case will be May 3.