HUNTINGTON – Homesteaders Life Company is seeking default judgment in a lawsuit against Gatens-Harding Funeral Home in which it alleged the funeral home cashed in on $1 million worth of false death benefits.
The insurance company claims Gatens is stonewalling the case, so it asked District Judge Robert C. Chambers to enter default judgment in its favor in a May 2 memorandum.
The memorandum and opinion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
While the defendant filed three answers with the court, the documents appear to be identical and the plaintiff is asking for all three to be stricken from the record.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs have attempted to contact the defendants’ attorneys on multiple occasions and when they have spoken, the defendants’ attorneys have ignored deadlines and not responded to requests.
“As of the date of this Motion, and in direct defiance of the Court’s April 4, 2016 Order, Defendants have not served any responses to Plaintiff’s Discovery Requests or any Rule 26(a)(1) Initial Disclosures,” the memorandum states. “And at no point in time since the filing of the joint stipulation on February 9, 2016 has Defendants’ counsel communicated with Plaintiff’s counsel regarding the overdue discovery responses and disclosures.”
Through their inaction and neglect, the defendants have stonewalled the discovery process and, in turn, the litigation as a whole, which has materially prejudiced Plaintiff in its maintenance of this action, the memorandum states.
The insurance company filed the lawsuit on Aug. 19, claiming Gatens, along with Chad R. Harding and Billie J. Harding, cashed in $1 million worth of false death benefits.
In the complaint, the insurance company determined that only 14 out of 111 people who signed a pre-need contract with the funeral home between 2005 to 2013 were actually deceased.
The people who were deceased had passed after the funeral home had previously cashed in on their pre-need contract.
On May 3, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert ordered the funeral home to pay $1,341 in attorney’s fees to the plaintiff for never responding to an April motion.
Homesteaders is represented by Alexander Macia and Keith D. Fisher of Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC.
The defendants are represented by Jeff C. Woods of the Law Office of Jeff C. Woods.