Putnam funeral home seeks to declare Internet broadcasting service void

WINFIELD - A Putnam County funeral home is asking a judge to lay to rest a contract it signed last year with a California company to broadcast funerals via the Internet.

Chapman Funeral Home filed suit in Putnam Circuit Court on July 9 against Event by Wire. In its complaint, Chapman alleges equipment and hardware it bought from the Half Moon Bay, Calif.-based company did not perform as intended, and when they stopped making the monthly lease payments due to Event by Wire's failure to provide technical support, Event by Wire threatened to turn the matter over to a collection agency.

According to court records, Chapman alleges one of Event by Wire's salesmen, Tim Zeuch, made a call to Chapman's office in Hurricane on Oct. 3. During his visit, Zeuch pitched Chapman on Event by Wire's Worldwide Memorial service which enables funeral homes to broadcast live feeds of funeral services via the Internet.

The service, the suit alleges, would "allow distant family members to participate in funerals of their loved ones without actually traveling to the funeral home where the event was taking place." The service, court records show, Event by Wire leasing Chapman a broadcasting kit, consisting of a digital camera, tripod, laptop computer and associated software.

According to the agreement, which is attached as an exhibit to the suit, Chapman was to pay Event by Wire a one-time start-up fee of $3,495, then $695 a month plus sales tax and software maintenance fees for the next 48 months. Zeuch, the suit alleges, said that the Worldwide Memorial service was " 'turn-key'" in that "the equipment and software would work in the manner specified and that support was provided in order to correct any technical difficulties."

Though records are unclear as to when, the kit and software were delivered to Chapman after the agreement was signed. However, Chapman alleges neither the hardware or software "conform[ed] to the representations of the Defendant's agreement at the time of the contract in that it simply did not work."

Chapman alleges that Event By Wire has "failed to provide adequate technical assistance and service," and at the time the suit was filed, "the computer hardware and software continues to fail to perform."

Chapman's complaint asks that the court grant it declaratory and injunctive relief.

Because Zeuch delivered detailed terms and conditions of the agreement after it was signed, Chapman is asking the court to declare the contract as unenforceable. Also, Chapman asks it be granted a temporary injunction prohibiting Event by Wire from turning them over to a collection agency.

At the time the suit was filed, Event by Wire alleged Chapman owed them $36,855.

Chapman is represented by J. Robert Leslie with the Hurricane law firm of Tyree, Embree and Leslie.

The case is assigned to Judge Phillip M. Stowers.

Putnam Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-204

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