Funeral Consumers Alliance Files Class Action Lawsuit
against Funeral Conglomerates and
Largest Casketmaker for Antitrust Violations
May 2, 2005
The Funeral Consumers Alliance, Inc. (FCA), on behalf of its roughly 400,000 members and a nationwide class of consumers, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in California seeking to stop the country's three largest funeral homes chains and the nation's largest casketmaker from shutting out competition and fixing casket prices at artificially high levels. The suit was filed against funeral conglomerates Service Corporation International, Alderwoods Group, Inc., Stewart Enterprises, Inc., and Batesville Casket Company. The suit seeks to prevent the defendants from boycotting independent casket discounters and from raising casket prices through price-fixing agreements.
Joining FCA in the suit are several individual consumer plaintiffs, who seek damages on behalf of all consumers who purchased Batesville caskets from the funeral home defendants.
"For years, funeral homes have conspired to artificially inflate casket prices," said Joshua Slocum, executive director of FCA. "We expect this lawsuit will put an end to these conspiracies, that it will bring free and fair competition to the casket market, and that consumers will be compensated for the damage this behavior has wrought."
FCA and the consumer plaintiffs allege:
- Defendants and their co-conspirators have engaged in a group boycott to prevent independent casket discounters from selling Batesville caskets and certain other brands.
- As part of the boycott, the defendants have mounted a campaign of disparagement against discounters and the caskets they sell. FCA believes this campaign has helped steer customers away from purchasing caskets from discounters and toward the artificially expensive Batesville brand of caskets that the defendants sell.
- The defendant funeral homes have engaged in various forms of price coordination in further violation of state and federal competition laws.
- The defendants' conduct has suppressed competition in casket sales, which has cost families billions of dollars in overcharges.
If successful, the lawsuit will end these anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices so grieving families can enjoy substantially lower prices and greater choices for caskets. The lawsuit will also allow the consumer plaintiffs to recover the overcharges that consumers of Batesville caskets have been made to pay.
The plaintiffs are represented by Constantine Cannon, an antitrust law firm with offices in New York and Washington, D.C.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance, Inc. (FCA) is a nonprofit organization that provides consumer education and information about the funeral industry and alternatives to traditional funerals. Its network includes more than 100 affiliated consumer groups (often known as memorial societies) with a total of approximately 400,000 individual consumer members.
For Additional Information
- Joshua Slocum, Executive Director, FCA, (802) 865-8300
- Matthew Cantor, Esq., Constantine Cannon, (212) 350-2738
- Gordon Schnell, Esq., Constantine Cannon, (212) 350-2735
- Copy of lawsuit complaint
- Position Statement of Funeral Prepayment
This article was posted on August 20, 2004