Korein Tillery Wins Final Approval of Class Settlement in First-Ever Case Under Florida Funeral Act
March 3, 2023:
In what the Court recognized as the first-ever “class action focusing on the Florida Funeral Act,” Judge Rodolfo A. Ruiz II of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on March 3, 2023 gave final approval of a class action settlement on behalf of Florida purchasers of preneed cremation contracts from defendants SCI Direct, Inc. and National Cremation Society, successfully resolving claims brought and litigated by Korein Tillery and its co-counsel, Hilgers Graben PLLC, on behalf of the class.
Filed in April 2020, plaintiffs alleged that a class consisting of thousands of Florida residents had been harmed by SCI and National Cremation Society by a "bait-and-switch" scheme that duped them into purchasing overvalued cremation packages and limited refunds if they tried to cancel their plans, all in violation of the Florida Funeral Act. Plaintiffs also alleged that SCI and National Cremation Society sold a separate “Transportation and Relocation Protection Plan” (“TRPP”) as an addendum to their preneed cremation contracts without properly depositing funds in trust, without providing proper disclosures, and with limits on the refunds available in the event of cancellation of the TRPP, all in violation of the Florida Funeral Act.
Under the terms of the settlement, class members could cancel their contract and obtain a full refund of their preneed cremation contract and/or TRPP. SCI/National Cremation Society also agreed to provide additional disclosures as injunctive relief.
Judge Ruiz’s final approval order for the settlement commended the work of Korein Tillery and Hilgers Graben in the case, noting that they had “expended considerable time and effort both before and after the initiation of this lawsuit investigating, prosecuting, and settling the claims at issue” and as a result had “attained an excellent result for class members.” The order specifically noted that Korein Tillery and Hilgers Graben had secured the maximum amount of recovery likely for the class under the settlement – “because Settlement Class Members were provided with the opportunity to refund their contracts, there was a substantial risk of the Settlement Classes not recovering greater than this amount in actual damages at trial.”
Commenting on the settlement’s approval, Korein Tillery partner Randall P. Ewing, Jr., who was appointed class co-counsel in the case, said: “We are pleased with the settlement terms that the Court approved in the Order entered today. As the Court recognized, this case involved first-of-their-kind claims and imposes meaningful injunctive relief to ensure pre-need funeral services are sold in accordance with law, while also granting substantial monetary relief to those who were affected by the challenged practices. We believe the settlement is a good example of how class actions can provide large numbers of people with significant recoveries at very reasonable expense.”