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Trial in lawsuit alleging mishandled burials set to begin
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Galilee Memorial Gardens, the Tennessee cemetery where caskets were crushed and stacked, remains were mishandled and bodies were lost, remains closed.But the dispute about who should pay for the problems at the burial ground in the Memphis suburb of Bartlett is alive and active.Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday in the class-action trial pitting relatives of about 1,200 dead people against licensed funeral homes accused of sending bodies to Galilee for three years after the cemetery's registration expired in December 2010.The lawsuit claims more than a dozen Memphis-area funeral homes failed to carry out their "sacred and contractual duties" for vulnerable, mourning relatives who expected their loved ones to be interred with dignity.Investigations have revealed that Galilee's owners, the Lambert family, misplaced hundreds of bodies, buried multiple cadavers in the same grave, and crushed caskets to fit them into single plots for years. The funeral homes kept sending bodies to Galilee until the cemetery was closed in 2014, the lawsuit claims.Mishandling of remains would not have occurred if a licensed funeral director had supervised burials, the lawsuit alleges.The lawsuit seeks damages likely ranging into the millions of dollars — if a jury sides with the families."They turned their backs on the bodies that were entrusted to them," plaintiff's lawyer Kathryn Barnett said of the funeral homes. "They just walked away."In court filings, the funeral homes deny allegations of breach of contract, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.