Closed South Hadley Funeral Home to Pay Nearly $500,000 in Restitution for Mishandling Human Remains, Misappropriating Consumer Deposits
Former Director Permanently Prohibited from Participating in Funeral Business
NORTHAMPTON – A closed South Hadley funeral home and its former director will pay nearly $500,000 in restitution after improperly handling human remains and misappropriating deposits intended for funeral arrangements, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. The defendants are also permanently prohibited from participating in the funeral business.
“We expect all funeral service providers to operate with respect for the deceased and their families,” said AG Healey. “It is intolerable that any provider would take advantage of the trust placed in them by grieving families.”
The consent judgment, entered today in Hampshire Superior Court, resolves claims that Ryder Funeral Home, Inc. and one of its owners, William W. Ryder, collected deposits from consumers for future funeral arrangements but failed to establish funeral trust accounts or purchase insurance policies as required under state regulations. It also resolves claims that they did not take steps to timely cremate or embalm human remains and did nothing to prevent the decomposition of unembalmed bodies.
The judgment orders the defendants to pay $471,446 in consumer restitution, as well as $347,500 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees, which is suspended pending the defendants’ compliance with the terms of the settlement.
Pursuant to the terms of the judgment, Ryder Funeral Home and William Ryder are also permanently prohibited from participating in any business involving embalming, funeral directing, or funeral services. Further, William Ryder is prohibited from soliciting, facilitating, or accepting pre-need deposits from consumers.
In a lawsuit filed against the defendants in September 2014, the AG’s Office alleged that the defendants used the deposits for their own benefit and failed to follow consumers’ directions regarding funeral arrangements. It also alleged they did not take steps to promptly cremate or embalm bodies or prevent the decomposition of unembalmed bodies.
The investigation began when an investigator from the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) visited Ryder Funeral Home in May 2014, and discovered multiple bodies in various states of decomposition that were not being handled in accordance with state regulations. The DPL’s Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing immediately suspended the defendants’ licenses. In July 2014, the defendants permanently surrendered their licenses and closed the funeral home without providing notice to consumers.
The AG’s investigation revealed that Ryder Funeral Home had made arrangements with numerous consumers who chose to plan funerals in advance. These arrangements were reflected in pre-need funeral contracts, which are subject to state regulations. The defendants failed to purchase pre-need insurance policies or establish funeral trust accounts for approximately 110 consumers.
The AG’s Office will be in contact with identified consumers. Consumers who believe they have been harmed by the defendants but have not been in contact with the AG’s Office should call the consumer hotline at 617-727-8400.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Ann E. Lynch of AG Healey’s Western Massachusetts and Consumer Protection Divisions with assistance from Civil Investigator Richard Steward and Paralegal Sharon Coles, as well as from the Division of Professional Licensure.