May 2, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
To download a .pdf file of the complaint, click here.
Funeral Consumers Alliance Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Funeral Conglomerates and Largest Casketmaker for Antitrust Violations
South Burlington, VT. – Funeral Consumers Alliance, Inc. (FCA), on behalf of its roughly 400,000 members and a nationwide class of consumers, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in California seeking to stop the country’s three largest funeral homes chains and the nation’s largest casketmaker from shutting out competition and fixing casket prices at artificially high levels. The suit has been filed against funeral conglomerates Service Corporation International, Alderwoods Group, Inc., Stewart Enterprises, Inc., and Batesville Casket Company. The suit seeks to prevent the defendants from boycotting independent casket discounters (ICDs), and from raising casket prices through price-fixing agreements.
Joining FCA in the suit are several individual consumer plaintiffs, who seek damages on behalf of all consumers who purchased Batesville caskets from the funeral home defendants.
“For years, funeral homes have conspired to artificially inflate casket prices,” said Joshua Slocum, executive director of FCA. “We expect this lawsuit will put an end to these conspiracies, that it will bring free and fair competition to the casket market, and that consumers will be compensated for the damage this behavior has wrought.”
FCA and the consumer plaintiffs allege the defendants and their co-conspirators have engaged in a group boycott to prevent ICDs from selling Batesville caskets and certain other brands. They also allege that as part of the boycott, the defendants have mounted a campaign of disparagement against ICDs and the caskets they sell. FCA believes this campaign has helped steer customers away from purchasing caskets from ICDs, and toward the artificially expensive Batesville brand of caskets the defendants sell. The plaintiffs further allege that the defendant funeral homes engaged in various forms of price coordination in further violation of state and federal competition laws. FCA alleges the defendants’ conduct has suppressed competition in casket sales, which has cost families billions of dollars in overcharges.
If successful, the lawsuit will bring an end to these anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices so grieving families can enjoy substantially lower prices and greater choices for caskets. The lawsuit will also allow the consumer plaintiffs to recover the overcharges that consumers of Batesville caskets have been made to pay.
Constantine Cannon , an antitrust law firm with offices in New York and Washington, DC., is representing FCA and the consumer plaintiffs. The firm has extensive experience in antitrust litigation.
Funeral Consumers Alliance
FCA is the nation’s oldest and largest funeral consumer education and advocacy organization. FCA comprises more than 100 affiliated consumer groups (often known as memorial societies) that provide families with information on funeral services and products. FCA groups have approximately 400,000 individual consumer members.