A West Los Angeles funeral home agreed Thursday to pay more than $80,000 in civil penalties to settle a lawsuit accusing it of altering death certificates and forging physicians’ signatures.
The district attorney’s office filed the Superior Court action against Malinow & Silverman Mortuary Inc., after an employee, Paul Sanders Jr., told The Times last year that he had collected evidence of more than 100 instances in which death certificates were altered, sometimes with the physician’s signature forged.
Sanders, 25, of Panorama city said Malinow & Silverman employees made the changes to avoid delays in funeral services or additional expenses incurred when cases are reviewed by the coroner’s office, which automatically investigates certain deaths, such as those caused by traumatic injuries.
The mortuary, at 1500 S. Sepulveda Blvd., agreed to pay $80,041.36 in penalties without admitting any wrongdoing, said the firm’s attorney Don Smaltz.
“The mortuary believed it was appropriate to resolve this controversy rather than engage in a time-consuming and expensive lawsuit,” Smaltz said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Martin Herscovitz said the funeral home’s shortcuts were “a matter of convenience. There was no evidence that it was done to cover up a crime.”
Physicians’ signatures, for instance, would be forged rather than sending a messenger to get the signatures, he said.
Sanders had alleged that money was also a factor in the funeral home’s efforts to avoid coroner’s inquires, which he said involve about 10 man-hours per death.
A trip to the coroner’s office cost an additional $120 per case, Sanders said, and $150 more had to be spent embalming and restoring the body after an autopsy.
No criminal charges were filed in the case. It is a misdemeanor to fraudulently fill out a death certificate and a felony to file a fraudulent certificate with the state, carrying a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Malinow & Silverman is a subsidiary of Service Corp. International of Houston, the largest funeral home and cemetery corporation in the United States.