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‘60 Minutes’ Investigates Eden Cemetery Allegations

by Julie Gruenbaum Fax

May 21, 2012 | 12:09 pm

Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills is owned by Service Corporation International, the subject of a "60 Minutes" report.

In September 2009 The Jewish Journal began following a class action law suit against Service Corporation International, owner of Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills. The suit alleges that SCI broke burial vaults and mishandled human remains as it tried to cram graves together, an allegation SCI denies.

The Eden trial is set to begin in October 2012.

In a “60 Minutes” segment that aired May 20, Anderson Cooper took a broader look at problems raised about SCI at some of the 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries it owns.

Cooper looked into cases where SCI double sold plots, then exhumed existing graves when the new body arrived.

While funeral homes are federally regulated, cemeteries are regulated on a state level, leading to often patchy oversight, according to Cooper’s report.

Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Cooper that SCI “generates a disproportionately large number of the complaints we get from consumers.” He also said the complaints are all similar –- high pressure sales tactics, misleading or dishonest information and double-sold plots.

Cooper’s report looked at Eden as well.

About 37,000 people are buried at Eden, a 72-acre facility at Sepulveda Boulevard and Rinaldi Street, which has been in operation for more than 55 years. SCI purchased Eden in 1985.

Groundskeepers deposed in the law suit, filed by Michael Avenatti of Eagan Avenatti, LLP, in Newport Beach, testified that some 200 bodies were disturbed or moved. But SCI says its investigation found problems with four graves, and the situations were handled directly with the families.

SCI, which did not comment on camera for “60 Minutes,” told the Jewish Journal in January 2012 that it follows protocol and properly handles human remains.

“We have different versions of what happened than the plaintiffs do,” SCI spokesperson Lisa Marshall said. “We are continuing to prepare for our day in court.”

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