Settlement Reached in Neptune Society Suit : Legal: Sources say widow of former Burbank mayor will receive almost $1 million after her husband’s remains were mishandled and his cremation delayed.


It took more than four months to get the body of former Burbank mayor Dallas Williams cremated, and it took 2 1/2 years for his widow to settle a lawsuit against the people she accused of mishandling his remains.

But settle Gaye Williams finally did, reaching an agreement in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday under which the Neptune Society, the firm that cremated her husband’s body, will pay her nearly $1 million, said sources close to the case.

Lawyers for both sides in the civil suit would not confirm the amount, saying it was to remain confidential under the terms of their agreement.

Besides, the main purpose of the suit, Williams said, was to force the Neptune Society to change its procedures and avoid the kinds of mistakes that had caused her so much heartache.

“What was essential to me was their statement,” Williams said Monday. “None of this would’ve happened if they had any kind of human feeling.”


Dallas Williams, a well-known Los Angeles advertising man and creator of the Culligan Man, died of cancer June 3, 1991, and had arranged to be cremated through the Neptune Society, which picks up bodies, stores them, and arranges for their disposal.

But 4 1/2 months after his death and supposed cremation, a Neptune agent visited his widow at 9:30 at night and asked her to identify a graphic photo of a decaying corpse--her husband’s--which had been found in a refrigerated compartment in Gardena, she said.

The ashes she had received earlier were those of someone else, she said she was told.

“I was just starting to feel right again,” Williams said, “and this shoved me right back.”

She was so angry over the mistake and more importantly to her, how it was handled, that she sued the Neptune Society in October, 1992. The Neptune Society, in turn, sued North American Crematory in Santa Ana, saying it was the subcontractor’s fault for confusing the two bodies and forgetting about the body of Dallas Williams.

She finally arranged to have her husband cremated and his ashes scattered over Puget Sound, Wash., she said.


Under an out-of-court settlement agreement approved Monday by Superior Court Judge Richard Hubbell, the Neptune Society of Los Angeles will pay Williams an undisclosed sum and issue news releases pledging new procedures and no future mistakes.

The Society’s owner and president, Manny Weintraub, could not be reached for comment Monday. His attorney, Jeffrey Zinder, said the changed procedures have already been put into effect.

In addition, Williams and the Neptune Society are to evenly split a financial reward from the North American Crematory--but only if the crematory succeeds in suing its insurance company for lack of coverage.

“North American denied any liability whatsoever in this case,” said lawyer Steven Serratore.