Funeral home socked with $1.4 million judgment and investigation

Steve Gonzalez Dec. 13, 2006, 9:48am


In one of his final acts on the bench, Madison County Circuit Judge Don Weber ordered the Werner-Mick Funeral Home to pay Timothy Werner $1,406,231.30 in a retaliatory discharge dispute.

Weber also asked that the Madison County State's Attorney investigate the funeral home on allegations the funeral home would dump embalming fluid into the sink drain and would throw out body parts that had not been cremated or buried.

Werner filed suit in September 2004, claiming he was fired after asking the funeral home to pay for injuries he sustained while on the job.

According to Werner, he twisted his knee and tore his meniscus while pushing a casket on May 1, 2002. He also claimed he lifted a casket a year later that caused a bulging disk in his back.

Werner claimed his supervisor, John Mick, witnessed the accidents and told him to use his personal health insurance to pay for the treatment.

He claimed his insurance carrier denied the claims so he asked Mick to pay for the medical bills or file a worker's compensation claim.

According to his suit, Werner was fired on May 13, 2003, after requesting the payment of his medical expenses.

Werner also claimed while still employed at the funeral home, he advised Stephanie and John Mick that he was aware of illegal and unethical activities that were taking place at the funeral home.

In addition to allegations of improper disposal of embalming fluid and body parts, Werner also claimed the funeral home used an unlicensed funeral director to sign for dead bodies and also used an unlicensed funeral director to preside over funerals.

Werner claimed his discharge caused him to lose wages in the past and future and forced him to sell items to survive. He also claimed he became depressed and the stress caused the break-up of his engagement.

He claimed the items he sold were used to pay bills until he could find another job and that the items were sold at discounts due to his dire financial situation.

The funeral home never responded to the suit. Just prior to his retirement Judge Phil Kardis entered a default judgment against the funeral home.

Weber held a hearing on damages in late November.

In the order issued Nov. 30, Weber awarded Werner $631,231.30 for past and future earnings, $25,000 for personal property and emotional distress and $750,000 in punitive damages.

Weber also found that John Mick violated health regulations and ordered the clerk to send copies of his order to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Granite City Health Department.

Weber was defeated by David Hylla in the November election.

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