Plaintiffs sued wrong company over cemetery fall, judge rules

PARKERSBURG – A federal judge has dismissed a personal injury lawsuit filed against a company that apparently does not own the funeral home the plaintiffs intended to sue or the cemetery they should have sued. U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin on Nov. 29 dismissed the lawsuit filed by Carissa Hammonds against Peoples/Perdew, which she believed owned the Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home in Marietta, Ohio. The basis of the lawsuit, an alleged fall at a cemetery, occurred at Riverview Cemetery in Williamstown, W.Va. Goodwin wrote that no relationship exists between Peoples/Perdew and the Marietta funeral home, even though one man is the president of both, and no relationship exists between his companies and the Riverview Cemetery. “William Peoples is the president of two corporations – Peoples/Perdew and Peoples Funeral Homes, Inc.,” Goodwin wrote. “Both corporations own and operate funeral homes that go by the same name – Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home. The named defendant, Peoples/Perdew, owns the Cawley & Peoples location in Barlow, Ohio. Peoples Funeral Homes owns the funeral home visited by the plaintiffs in Marietta, Ohio, as well as another location in Lowell, Ohio.” Goodwin wrote that, more importantly, neither company has ever done business as Riverview Cemetery, which is where Hammonds’ alleged fall took place. Hammonds alleged she attended a funeral service for her late grandfather on July 14, 2010, at the Cawley & Peoples in Marietta, then traveled to the graveside service at Riverview Cemetery . She alleged she fell into an uncovered man-made hole, resulting in an injury that required surgery on her left ankle. Goodwin wrote that it is unclear why her attorneys believed Peoples/Perdew owned and operated the cemetery. “The main thrust of the plaintiffs’ argument (against dismissal) is that there is a complicated relationship between the two corporations of which William Peoples is the president, and more time is needed to produce and inspect documents that will allow the plaintiffs to untangle the two entities,” Goodwin wrote. “Therefore, according to the plaintiffs, it is too early to say that naming Peoples/Perdew as defendant rather than Peoples Funeral Homes was an error. “This argument may have had some merit if the court decided today that Peoples Funeral Homes should have been named as the defendant. However, that is not what the court means when it says that the wrong defendant was named in the summons. “Neither of the corporations run by William Peoples owns or operates the Riverview Cemetery… The proper defendant is whatever entities own or operate Riverview Cemetery.” Hammonds’ husband Daniel was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was originally filed in Wood County Circuit Court before being removed to federal court. The plaintiffs were represented by The Adkins Law Firm of Hurricane.

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