A Nashville judge ruled on March 28 that legal teams seeking class-action status in lawsuits against Galilee may not interfere with the work of former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, who was appointed deputy receiver in the state’s takeover of the cemetery.
The lawsuits represent family members whose loved ones were supposed to have been interred properly at the cemetery.
Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said that Kustoff is to focus on identifying the extent of issues at Galilee. She found that answering and responding to numerous requests from the lawsuits would detract from his ability to tackle the task at hand.
Kustoff is looking through the cemetery’s records, which are in disarray, to determine who is buried in which grave sites and also to get a grasp of the business’ finances.
She authorized class-action legal teams to move forward with their lawsuits as long as they do not interfere with the deputy receiver’s tasks.
McCoy said, in part, “… you can make no request that interferes, directly or indirectly, with the duties of the receiver or the commissioner. The state is acting on behalf of all the families. Mr. Kustoff has a duty to help ease the stress of the plaintiffs. There are a lot of families who want resolution of this, but it’s going to take a while.”
With that said, the judge encouraged the lawyers representing the class actions to work with the special deputy receiver and share information with him as it becomes available.
Eleven attorneys attended the hearing.
The cemetery remains a crime scene in the wake of discoveries that multiple bodies had been buried in single graves; the location of some bodies was unknown.
Attorneys for both class-action lawsuits say they have plenty of work to do while Kustoff’s work proceeds as they talk with their clients and with an estimated 20 or more funeral homes that may have had business dealings with the cemetery long after its state license expired in January 2011. [UPDATE: See The Bartlett Express’s April 2 story with details on new defendants and a link to an amended complaint.]
The attorneys anticipate this will be a lengthy process. Kustoff’s March 24 preliminary report referred to limited and disorganized financial information for Galilee Memorial Gardens. Fifteen banks have been subpoened for related records so far.
The report lists four of the funeral homes that will be issued subpoenas:
- Christian Funeral Homes
- N.J. Ford and Son Funeral Homes Inc.
- M.J. Edwards Son and Funeral Home Inc.
- M.J. Edwards Whitehaven Funeral Chapel Inc.
As of the March 24 report, Kustoff noted about the cemetery’s computer, “I have not yet had an opportunity to examine whatever data that might exist on the computer’s hard drive.”
Written by Carolyn Bahm, editor for The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.