The State

A judge approved payment of $3.5 million to nearly 400 people who claim Harbor Lawn Memorial Park in Costa Mesa desecrated the remains of cremated loved ones. The action by Orange County Superior Court Judge John L. Flynn Jr. means that each of 391 people could receive checks for about $9,500 as soon as this week, according to lawyers in the case. But the plaintiffs may have to return the money next year if Judge Flynn does not approve an overall settlement of more than 100 lawsuits filed against the memorial park. Early distribution of the money was approved only after a plaintiff's lawyer argued that it would be unfair to make distraught families--22 members of which have died since the lengthy case began--wait another year or more for compensation. Flynn's decision will be appealed, according to a lawyer who represents another 11,500 Harbor Lawn customers who would share an additional $10.5 million.

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