Grand View lawsuit settled

GLENDALE — Attorneys representing plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Grand View Memorial Park have announced a $3.8-million settlement agreement.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted preliminary approval of the settlement until a fairness hearing is held and the plaintiffs have a chance to comment on the proposed agreement, according to court records.

“The biggest goal of the class action is to normalize the cemetery,” said attorney Paul Ayers, who represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “When you talk to people, they are not really interested in the money. They are mostly interested in seeing the cemetery cleaned up and reopened, normalized and rehabilitated.”

Plaintiffs will be eligible for a portion of the $3.87 million in the proposed settlement, according to court records. A portion of any cash settlement will also go to the attorneys, who could receive more than $1.1 million.

Another $500,000 would go toward the restoration of Grand View Memorial Park.

Ayers will head up the restoration process, which includes obtaining original cemetery records, identifying and storing cremated remains in the mausoleum, installing an irrigation system, rehabilitating its landscaping and keeping track of all project accounts.

Family members of people buried at the cemetery filed multiple lawsuits and a class-action lawsuit against the cemetery after state investigators in October 2005 found the remains of 4,000 people at Grand View that were not properly disposed of or buried.

The lawsuit alleged that cemetery workers buried remains in grave sites that were already occupied; disinterred remains and intermixed them with others; and converted single-burial grave sites into multiple burials.

Plaintiffs also alleged that cemetery operators carried out multiple cremations, improperly disposed of cremated remains and failed to return them to their grave sites. The state’s investigation led to the cemetery’s closure in 2006. The site’s operator, Marsha Lee Howard, was removed from her post in November 2005.

Moshe Goldsman took over as operator but closed the cemetery’s gates less than a year later due to financial struggles.

The city stepped in to facilitate temporary visits, four hours a week, but concerns over cost and fire hazards stopped the practice. Then, in 2007, city officials got a public-nuisance abatement order against the cemetery to clean the property. Loved ones of those buried at the cemetery have since had to conform to a handful of court-ordered visitation days each year.

The settlement process will take several months to complete, attorney David Baum, who represents Goldsman, said last week.

“We are just trying to be patient, and hopefully by next year everything will be a lot better,” he said.

La Crescenta resident Frank Dorosy, whose mother is buried at the cemetery, said he also hopes to inter his father at Grand View.

His parents purchased their plots at the cemetery before they died because the site reminded them of their homeland in Hungary, Dorosy said.

His father died about a year ago and was cremated, but burial plans have had to be put on hold while the legal morass worked itself out.

“We have been just waiting for Grand View to settle on something, so we could finally put him to rest,” he said.

When Dorosy visits his mother’s grave site, he said he tries to fix it up. The legal battle has been frustrating, he added.

“I just think it was such a fraudulent situation, and they just took people for a ride,” Dorosy said. “It was definitely not right.”

A hearing on the proposed settlement is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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