Summary Judgement Stops Cemetery Lawsuit - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/16/06

Summary Judgement Stops Cemetery Lawsuit

A Lubbock judge rules in favor of the city Wednesday, effectively ending a lawsuit claiming loved ones are lost or misidentified at the Lubbock Cemetery.  This is a story NewsChannel 11 has been following since 2004.  That's when several families came forward saying as many as 4,000 graves could be missing.  Later that year, City Attorney Anita Burgess located 97% of those burial sites.  They were apparently located at Peaceful Gardens Cemetery in Woodrow.

Still, around 70 families sued the city for negligence, saying the city kept poor records.  Some of those cases were dismissed, leaving around 60 families waiting for the judge's decision.  Pending an appeal Wednesday's decision stops the suit against the city, and prevents any damages from being awarded to the 60 families claiming wrong doing at the cemetery.

"Well, I hope this can all be resolved and cleared up," said Joyce Burroughs.  Burroughs is one of the plaintiffs who does not know where family members are buried at the Lubbock Cemetery. She holds the original deed to a plot her father-in-law purchased years ago.  "Two of his infant children are in the plot, but the cemetery cannot tell us where they are," said Burroughs. 

Burroughs does know, that someone is buried in her family's ground, but the family didn't know who, or why.  "There was an unknown person, to us at the time, who was put in the family plot, and didn't have permission from his heirs," said Burroughs.

Those leaving the courtroom Wednesday had similar stories.  That's why about 60 claim the city kept poor records, but the Assistant City Attorney Jeff Hartsell says that's just not true.  "Of all the people who claimed there were faulty records, we could only find two that were buried when the city of Lubbock owned the cemetery, so there is not any sort of massive mistakes going on at the cemetery," said Hartsell.

Also, Judge Sam Medina says the legal timeline ran out for the families to file suit against the city.  Attorney Steve Claus says he respects Medina's decision, but disagrees with it.  "When you go out to a grave site, what leads you to think that the city is not doing their job of maintaining records and maintaining that grave site properly," asked Claus.

Claus says depending on what his clients say, there is a good chance they'll appeal the judge's decision.  Burroughs just wants the situation corrected.  "It would be very simple to move that person out of our family plot and the issue would be more or less over," said Burroughs.

The appeal cannot be filed until the county receives its summary judgement.  We're told that's because the county used to own the cemetery.

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