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$100 million lawsuit filed against cemetery, funeral homes

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BARTLETT, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Two plaintiffs have filed a $100 million lawsuit against Galilee Memorial Gardens Cemetery of Bartlett, accused of desecrating dozens of graves.

Two funeral homes in Memphis are also named in the suit.

Memphis attorney Howard Manis and partners of Manis Law Firm have filed a class action multi-layered lawsuit on behalf of two plaintiffs.

"Obviously, Galilee is responsible because the cemetery was actually burying the bodies; the individual funeral home directors we believe are also responsible because they're licensed professionals," Manis said.

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Galilee Memorial Gardens was shut down by the State of Tennessee in January after accusations of the dead buried on top of one another, crushed caskets, bodies buried adjacent to the cemetery property, and theft. Manis said his firm blames the cemetery, but also two Memphis funeral homes, N.J. Ford and Sons and M. J. Edwards.

"It doesn't even matter if funeral directors didn't know they weren't licensed," Manis said. "They had a duty to know they weren't licensed."

Manis, representing a family whose loved one was lost, said Galilee Memorial had been operating without a certificate since 2010.

The lawsuit shows the cemetery's owner, Lambert Memorial, was no longer licensed as of Dec. 31, 2010. It's a violation of the State of Tennessee's law to operate without a license. During that same time, the state told the cemetery there was no more room to bury any bodies.

By 2011, a restraining order was filed against Jemar Lambert to stop burying bodies on someone else's property.

"After the restraining order was entered, another 20 bodies were buried on that property, so they violated the restraining order, stayed open, and nothing was done," Manis said.

Tara Turner says her family struggled to get the funds to bury her father in 2010 at Galilee Memorial Gardens.

"When we got ready to go out there six months ago, they couldn't tell us where our dad was at," Turner said, who recently went to visit his plot.

It's the same story Manis says his office has heard more than 40 times in the last two weeks.

The State of Tennessee was in court Monday, asking the courts to grant it custody of Galilee Memorial Gardens.

"There's legal fault, there's moral fault, there's a lot of things I think as we move forward we're going to see a lot of answers need to be given," Manis said.

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