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State Supreme Court rules against West Seneca cemetery

Dave Debo

A State Supreme Court Judge ruled on Tuesday in favor of over 200 families whose loved one’s remains were moved by a cemetery without their notification. St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca moved the caskets due to what cemetery officials say was eroding soil that put the caskets in danger of falling into Cayuga Creek.

Attorney Leonard Zaccagnino represents one of the families in the lawsuit. He explained Judge Dennis Ward’s ruling.

“What it’s done, it’s denied Buffalo City Cemetery, Inc.’s petition for what’s known as a Nunc Pro Tunc Order,” he said. “Which required, in a cemetery situation, if lots had to be moved, you have to go to court. If you can’t reach the next of kin with respect to the individuals who may be buried, then you had to go to court.”

Credit Dave Debo

Forest Lawn Cemetery/Crematory Group, which operates St. Matthew’s, petitioned the court to get approval of the move after the fact. Judge Ward ruled the cemetery should have notified families before the caskets were moved.

Zaccagnino said the next step in the process is for the court to get everyone involved to figure out the best place to put the caskets.

He also said families in the lawsuit may file civil claims against the Forest Lawn Group regarding the damaging of plots during the casket removals.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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