State Supreme Court rules against West Seneca cemetery

Aug 27, 2019

A State Supreme Court Judge ruled on Tuesday in favor of over 200 families whose loved one’s remains were moved by a cemetery without their notification. St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca moved the caskets due to what cemetery officials say was eroding soil that put the caskets in danger of falling into Cayuga Creek.

Sign posted at St. Matthew's Cemetery in West Seneca.
Credit Dave Debo

Attorney Leonard Zaccagnino represents one of the families in the lawsuit. He explained Judge Dennis Ward’s ruling.

“What it’s done, it’s denied Buffalo City Cemetery, Inc.’s petition for what’s known as a Nunc Pro Tunc Order,” he said. “Which required, in a cemetery situation, if lots had to be moved, you have to go to court. If you can’t reach the next of kin with respect to the individuals who may be buried, then you had to go to court.”

Credit Dave Debo

Forest Lawn Cemetery/Crematory Group, which operates St. Matthew’s, petitioned the court to get approval of the move after the fact. Judge Ward ruled the cemetery should have notified families before the caskets were moved.

Zaccagnino said the next step in the process is for the court to get everyone involved to figure out the best place to put the caskets.

He also said families in the lawsuit may file civil claims against the Forest Lawn Group regarding the damaging of plots during the casket removals.