CARLISLE — A Montgomery County judge has ruled Premium Mortuary Services may have a basis for defamation claims against the lawyer who sued them and allegedly made a “bodies decomposing with flies and maggots” statement to the media.
Last summer the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors temporarily revoked the crematory’s license after a board inspector found:
• “a slight odor of decomposition” around an exterior garage door that was slightly open;
• three deceased human bodies in alternate cardboard containers — one on a cot, and the other two each on separate eight-foot tables, located outside of two coolers. These three bodies had been embalmed;
• a three-person cooler not functioning properly with a temperature of about 68 degrees, according to the temperature gauge;
• a walk-in cooler not functioning properly with a temperature of about 62 degrees;
• an odor of decomposition inside the facility;
• dead flies on the floor and live ones flying around the facility; and
• a temperature of 95 degrees in the cremation retort area and 93 degrees on the garage door, according to documents.
Richard Schulte, an attorney with Wright Schulte, sued the crematory on behalf of his client Sharon Hart of Trotwood, whose son was at the facility.
Premium counter-sued claiming Schulte defamed them. Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Richard Skelton ruled recently the crematory may have a point and refused to dismiss the claims as Schulte asked.
“The following statement appears to express verifiable facts: ‘They left bodies decomposing, with flies and maggots.’ The second statement: ‘Bodies of people that were cremated were mixed up, left on the floor…’ appears factual to this Court,” Skelton wrote.
“There are some statements that may be considered ‘opinion’ but, as indicated, this Court looked at whether the specific language would cause the reasonable listener to perceive the statement(s) as fact or opinion. This Court, looking at the statements in the broader context, finds that a reasonable listener would perceive the statements as noted hereinabove do not come close to being an opinion in any context.”
The crematory’s license was temporarily reinstated in August.