Families, St. Matthew's attorney's meet in court

Jun 13, 2019

Lawyers were in Erie County Court today arguing whether a judge should approve of a cemetery moving caskets. The problem is the caskets were moved weeks ago. St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca had moved 220 caskets from an area they deemed unstable, and moved to another location on cemetery grounds.

However, the families were told after the fact. State law says a cemetery needs the consent of family members or a judge in order to move caskets.

Attorney Michael Risman
Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

“He was re-buried without my permission,” said Brenda Fischer, whose son is buried at St. Matthew’s. “I’m upset about it, of course.”

Fischer said she wasn’t notified until after the fact.

Hodgson Russ Attorney Michael Risman, representing Forest Lawn Cemetery which owns St. Matthew’s said the caskets were moved due to an emergency situation.

“It was a catastrophic, unforeseeable event,” he said. “We did our best efforts to do the most important thing which was to preserve the graves and the remains.”

Attorney Barry Covert represents 70 families who had their loved ones moved. He believes the cemetery should have let the families have a say in the matter.

Attorney Barry Covert
Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

“What is the remedy to our clients? Because our clients are the ones who have been victimized,” he said. “We believe the court should not give this approval after the fact.”

The cemetery said they would not move the caskets back to their original plots.

Another hearing is scheduled for late July.