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Colorado House Bill 22-1073 Would Give More Power to Inspect Funeral Homes

By Burg Simpson
January 27, 2022
6 min read

Colorado House Bill Would Give Regulators More Power to Inspect Funeral Homes

Colorado House Bill 22-1073 was inspired by criminal allegations against former Lake County coroner and the owners of the Sunset Mesa funeral home. In February of 2019, the trial lawyers at Burg Simpson filed a case against the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado.

Also, in 2019, the firm resolved a similar matter involving horrific atrocities committed at the Biological Resource Center, a body donation center in Phoenix, Arizona. In that case, firm secured a $58.5 million award for the plaintiffs.

The Sunset Mesa Case

On February 4, 2019, the attorneys at Burg Simpson filed a lawsuit in Montrose, Colorado in on behalf of sixty-four grieving families against the owner of both Sunset Mesa Funeral Home and the Donor Services body-donation business, as well several other companies and individuals who benefited from an outrageous body broker scheme. The lawsuit alleges that in exchange for payment, the owner of Sunset Mesa engaged in a fraudulent scheme where she promised grieving families that Sunset Mesa would perform contracted cremations, and return sacred cremains to the families, but instead—without the Plaintiffs’ knowledge or consent—mutilated their loved one’s bodies and sold body parts across the globe, for profit.

Our grieving clients need answers,” said David K. TeSelle, Burg Simpson Shareholder and Co-Chair of the Complex Commercial Litigation Department at Burg Simpson.

 “It is time for those who were responsible for this scheme, and those who benefited from it, and those who allowed this scheme to continue unchecked for years, to be held to account. This is unacceptable in any civilized society. The lawyers at Burg Simpson will work tirelessly to get the answers, wherever the facts lead, and to hold those responsible accountable for their horrific conduct. Only then can these families have justice.”

The Biological Resource Center

In similar case, Burg Simpson filed a lawsuit against the Biological Resource Center Inc. et al. in Maricopa County Superior Court. The Biological Resource Center, located in Phoenix, Arizona claimed to be a legitimate body donation center where the deceased could have their bodies donated to medical advancement. In 2014, the facility was raided by the FBI for selling donated bodies against the families wishes. The descendants and families of the deceased were induced by the BRC to donate the bodies of their loved ones based on misrepresentations that the remains would be used solely for medical or scientific research. The company claimed that the remains would be treated with dignity and respect, and would not be dismembered or sold, but instead, they engaged in an illegal enterprise of collecting, harvesting, and trafficking whole human bodies and selling body parts for profit.

The Burg Simpson trial team was led by shareholder and firm founder Michael S. Burg and included shareholders David K. TeSelle, Holly Kammerer, and Paul D. Friedman.

After a four-week trial in Maricopa County, Burg Simpson’s trial team secured $58.5 million in compensatory & punitive damages—one of the largest civil jury trial awards in Arizona history—for 10 families who had donated bodies of their deceased loved ones to the Biological Resource Center.

The jury sent a loud and clear message to body brokers across the nation that failing to treat donated bodies with dignity and respect and selling off body parts for profit without full informed consent from the donors will not be tolerated in our society.

Burg Simpson was proud of their clients’ willingness to stand up to the body brokers and to shed a light on a nationwide problem that was little known before this case. While live organ donation and transplant is highly regulated, in most states, whole body donation after death in most states is not regulated at all. Because of the courage of our clients and the dedication and hard work of the Burg Simpson team, this has now begun to change, so that no grieving family members need to go through this again.

House Bill 22-1073.

According to a recent article in the Denver Post,

“Colorado lawmakers are looking to bring state inspection of funeral homes up to speed to prevent such alleged atrocities from happening again. HB22-1073 would allow the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to inspect funeral homes and crematories if the agency receives a complaint about the business. Currently, the department has no authority to inspect these businesses without the consent of an owner.”

Burg Simpson supports Colorado House Bill 22-1073 and hopes that more regulations in our state, and states across the union, will have the power to regulate funeral homes.

About Michael Burg

Michael Burg J.D. is one of America’s leading trial lawyers, a best-selling author, legal expert and founding shareholder of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine. A legal champion for victims of corporate and individual malfeasance, negligence, overreach and abuse, Burg began his career fighting for the underdog and has gone on to successfully litigate some of the country’s most high-profile cases of the past four decades.

In addition to being a distinguished American trial lawyer Michael Burg is an inductee in the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Clarence Darrow Award. He has also been named to the 2016 RoundTable: America’s 50 Most Influential Trial Lawyers by The Trial Lawyer magazine; Barrister’s Best as “Best Civil Litigator”; and one of “America’s 50 Leading Trial Lawyers” by The U.S. Legal 500. Under Michael Burg’s leadership, Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine now more than 70 lawyers, and has offices in Denver, Phoenix, Cody, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Tampa, and Sarasota.

About Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine

One of America’s foremost plaintiff trial firms, Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine has a reputation for fighting relentlessly and successfully for our clients. Founded in 1976, Burg Simpson has secured more than $2.7 billion in verdicts, settlements, and judgments in practice areas spanning dangerous pharmaceutical drugs and devices, medical malpractice, personal injury, commercial litigation and whistleblowers, construction defects, workers’ compensation, bad faith insurance litigation, and product liability, including more than 200 recoveries in excess of $1 million.

 

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