AG's office says Flatwoods funeral home didn't follow pre-need laws

By Chris Dickerson | Dec 23, 2014

CHARLESTON – The state is suing a former funeral home for alleged failure to follow laws concerning the sale of pre-need funeral goods and services.

The state of West Virginia, ex rel. Patrick Morrisey, attorney general, filed a lawsuit Oct. 31 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Stockart-Sizemore Inc., doing business as Stockert-Sizemore Funeral Home, and Timothy S. Sizemore, individually and as former owner of Stockert-Sizemore Funeral Home.

According to the complaint, Sizemore operated a funeral home in Flatwoods and since at least 2006 had sold pre-need funeral goods and services, which is an agreement wherein a person pays an agreed upon sum to a business that promises to furnish funeral services upon the person's death.

The complaint states on July 10, 2013, the Pre-need Funeral Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General audited the defendants' pre-need contracts accounts and discovered multiple violations of West Virginia law, including 10 instances of the defendant accepting funds as advance payment for funeral arrangements without depositing the funds in a trust account or pre-need insurance policy, as required by law.

According to the lawsuit, the audit also revealed 11 pre-need contracts that the defendants failed to record with the state with the appropriate fees within the requisite 10 days of execution. The lawsuit states that the defendant company was foreclosed and sold at auction in November 2013.

The misappropriation of funds and unregistered pre-need contracts have resulted in the defendants being accused of unfair or deceptive acts or practices for failure to place consumers' funds in a trust or insurance policy, omission of material fact, failure to submit contracts and pay fees and failure to maintain accurate records.

“This complaint seeks to protect senior citizens and others who in good faith tried to prepay for their funerals so as not to burden their loved ones with additional expenses at what may already be a sad and stressful time,” Morrisey said in a statement. “These contracts were entered into in good faith, and people must be confident that when they enter into a contract with a business the business will uphold its end of the deal.

“Our office identified multiple areas of violation and at least 12 West Virginia consumers who were affected by the defendants’ conduct."

The plaintiff seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from violating pre-need laws, an order forever prohibiting them from providing pre-need services in West Virginia and requiring the refund of all money received from West Virginia consumers for pre-need contracts not performed, $5,000 in civil penalties, punitive damages, investigative costs, interest and attorney fees.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 14-C-1953

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