Family sues funeral home over assault

Kelly Holleran Jun. 13, 2009, 1:00am

The daughter and grandson of a deceased woman have filed two separate complaints against Wallace Broadview Funeral Home and two of its employees, alleging they were physically assaulted by the employees and were not given a private viewing room for their relative.

Peggy Scott and Schwarz Scott say their mother and grandmother, Pauline Garner-Burgette, died on July 17, 2004, in St. Louis.

After her mother's death, Peggy Scott called defendant Vernon Wallace of Wallace Broadview Funeral Home and made arrangements with him for burial services in Chicago, according to the complaints filed June 8 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

According to the arrangements, Garner-Burgette was supposed to be buried in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside next to her mother's grave.

On July 22, 2004, Peggy Scott and Schwarz Scott purchased a cashier's check for $3,275 to be delivered to Wallace, which they believed would help pay for an obituary notice in the "Chicago Tribune," and ordered a floral arrangement to be delivered to the home, the suits state.

They did all this while they were still in St. Louis with their mother's body, the complaint says.

Before their mother's and grandmother's scheduled visitation back in Chicago at Wallace Broadview Funeral Home, Peggy Scott and Schwarz Scott say they arrived at the funeral home on July 23 where they found Garner-Burgette's remains placed in a room with the caskets of four other deceased people.

"During the unscheduled visit, Mrs. Scott became aware that Defendant Wallace did not have a room for private visitation of the Plaintiff's decedent mother," the suit states. "Neither Wallace nor the staff of the Home had previously informed Plaintiff of this fact, nor did they treat Plaintiff with courtesy, dignity or respect."

During the visit, they also realized that Wallace had not paid for Garner-Burgette's obituary notice, the complaint says.

In addition, Wallace failed to make arrangements with the priest the Scott's designated to preach at Garner-Burgette's funeral, according to the complaint.

At about 3:30 p.m., Peggy Scott and Schwarz Scott say they returned to the funeral home to discuss their problems with Wallace.

During their discussion, Wallace picked up a bag with Garner-Burgette's name on it, which contained mass cards, a guest register book and acknowledgment cards that had been forwarded from St. Louis to Chicago with Garner-Burgette's remains, according to the complaint.

"When Mrs. Scott reached for the said bag, Defendant Wallace shoved Mrs. Scott in the chest," the suit states. "Defendant Wallace claimed that the items were not the Decedent's and that they belonged to him. The shove was so forcible that she lost her balance and began to fall. A man sitting in a chair behind her broke her fall."

Peggy Scott says she was so stunned and traumatized, she cried out for help. Upon hearing her cry, Schwarz Scott called the police, the complaint says.

But Peggy Scott says her call for help did not stop the violence. She was again shoved in the chest by defendant Rory Moman, according to the complaint.

"Mr. Scott warded off further physical attack on Mrs. Scott by pushing Moman away from Mrs. Scott and requesting that Moman keep his hands off Mrs. Scott, his mother," the complaint says. "The physical altercation initiated by Mr. Wallace and Moman's assault on Mrs. Scott caused Mr. Scott physical and emotional stress."

Because of his stress, Schwarz Scott struck the entrance door on the Roosevelt Road side of the funeral home with his left hand, causing him to receive 200 stitches on his left arm and right hand, the suit states.

The situation caused the Scotts to find another funeral home in Chicago, and the memorial was held where the funeral was supposed to take place, the Scotts say.

In the four-count suits, Peggy and Schwarz Scott are each seeking a judgment in excess of $200,000, plus costs.

They will be representing themselves.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case numbers: 09-L-296, 09-L-297.

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