MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In 2018, a jury found Galilee Memorial Gardens responsible for the mishandling of bodies at its cemetery. Cemetery records showed bodies were buried in caskets one atop the other. Many of the families were left not knowing the exact location of their loved one’s grave.
Now, two attorneys are suing the lead attorney and her law firm from the class action case for allegedly mishandling the case by failing to tell them about the multiple settlement offers they could have received. A claim the Morgan & Morgan Nashville attorney disputes.
The 28-page lawsuit filed in August claims the lead attorney representing 1,200 families “refused to entertain, respond to, and accept over $25 million in settlement offers made by the Funeral Home Defendants during the trial.”
Frank Watson III and Tim Edwards are now fighting to get what they believe the families should have been awarded.
“This case is about getting compensation for these family members that lost that right when Ms. Barnett and Morgan & Morgan failed to entertain settlement offers,” said Watson.
A jury ruled in 2018 that Galilee Memorial Gardens was 99 percent at fault for the mishandling of bodies, and that the funeral directors were one percent at fault. That verdict awarded families $7,500 per body. The lawsuit states families were only awarded $75 per decedent from the funeral director defendants.
“We are here for compensation for these family victims and I think we’ll get it in court,” said Watson.
When reached for comment, attorneys for Morgan and Morgan Nashville strongly dispute the allegations, saying, “This complaint has been filed by lawyers who were our co-council in the lawsuit. They allege that the offers to settle were made when in fact no such offers were made. They allege events which did not happen to our knowledge to the extent that certain events did happen they are falsely portrayed.”
Steve Mulroy, a law professor at The University of Memphis School of Law, says as a general rule attorneys communicate settlement offers with their clients or in this case the class representative.
“On the one hand, the decision to accept or reject a settlement offer by an attorney is a matter of judgement. And sometimes you make the right decision and sometimes you make the wrong call,” said Mulroy.
The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $25 million in compensatory damages, plus more than $15 million in punitive damages against each defendant.
Attorneys for the families say they are still waiting for Morgan & Morgan’ Nashville’s response, that deadline is Nov. 7.