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Suit alleges Crown Hill illegally solicited care-facility patients

September 28, 2015

Indiana’s largest cemetery illegally made direct solicitations to people in hospitals, mental health facilities and other care settings, alleges a class-action lawsuit filed Monday in Indianapolis.

Cohen & Malad LLP alleges in the suit that Crown Hill Cemetery violated the Indiana Pre-Need Act by directly soliciting patients for prepaid cemetery and funeral arrangements.

“Indiana’s Pre-Need Act exists to protect vulnerable Hoosiers from improper sales tactics by cemeteries and funeral homes,” Cohen & Malad attorney Vess Miller said in a written statement. “It’s alarming to learn that Crown Hill has been preying on the mentally ill to increase profits.”

The lead plaintiff in the case is Vivian Jackson, through her legal guardian, Deitra Covington, who is Jackson’s daughter. The suit alleges that Jackson, an inpatient being treated at Florence House in Indianapolis for paranoid schizophrenia and psychosis, was solicited by a Crown Hill salesman who visited the facility in 2012.

Jackson purchased more than $11,000 in pre-need goods and services, the suit says. Over the course of more than two years, Crown Hill deducted more than $4,100 in monthly payments from Jackson’s account, which was funded by her roughly $600 monthly Social Security check. The suit contends Crown Hill refused refunds after Covington became aware of the transaction and requested the money be repaid.  

The Pre-Need Act under Indiana Code 30-2-13-24 bars direct solicitation for funeral and cemetery services to people in mental health and health care facilities.

“Despite these clear prohibitions, Crown Hill has repeatedly solicited patients in health facilities to purchase prepaid funeral and cemetery goods and services,” the suit contends.

The suit filed in the court of Marion Superior Judge Timothy Oakes seeks to recover damages for victims who entered into contracts with and paid fees to Crown Hill while they were patients at hospitals and care facilities. The suit makes claims for violation of the Pre-Need Act, Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, unjust enrichment and attorney fees and costs.

A representative for Crown Hill was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.

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