LOS ANGELES (CN) - A cemetery moved a mother's ashes so it could sell the vacated space - next to the ashes of Groucho Marx - to the highest bidder, the woman's children claim in court.
The late Jeannine Kane's children, Stephanie Kirschner and Brad Kane, sued Eden Memorial Park and its corporate parent, Service Corporation International, in Superior Court.
Eden Memorial Park is a Jewish cemetery in Mission Hills.
The children seek punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and tortious interference with dead bodies.
The children claim that Eden neither asked their permission nor let them know that it was moving their mother's ashes, which were placed in an urn at the cemetery after she died in 1979.
"While the improper handling of plaintiffs' mother's remains is egregious in and of itself, defendants' conduct is particularly reprehensible in light of defendants' alleged motive in moving the remains of plaintiffs' mother - namely more money," the complaint states.
"Indeed, plaintiffs' mother had been previously inurned in a niche adjacent to that of the famous comedian and film and television star, Julius Henry 'Groucho' Marx."
The children say they discovered that their mother had been moved when they visited the cemetery after their father died in September 2011.
They say that a cemetery employee told them that "'a lot of terrible things'" had happened at the cemetery but that "'the people responsible'" no longer worked there.
The children say that in spite of those assurances, the incident involving their mother was part of a "large scale problem."
"(O)ver the last 25 years, defendants have been routinely desecrating graves by, among other things, damaging and breaking protective burial vaults containing human remains buried at the cemetery in order to make room for new graves, mis-burying individuals, and failing to maintain adequate records regarding burials performed, which includes but is not limited to, the location of graves," the complaint states.
The children claim the practice "has occurred on a weekly basis," and the cemetery has known about it for decades.
They say the cemetery moved their mother's remains because they knew that a spot next to Groucho's has "a certain prestige and higher value."
"Thus, plaintiffs believe and allege that defendants moved their mother's remains in order to re-sell the niche closer to Mr. Marx's remains at a considerable profit," the complaint states.
The plaintiffs are represented by Michael Avenatti with Eagan Avenatti of Newport Beach.
Named as defendants are Eden's parent company Service Corporation International, SCI California Funeral Services, Eden Memorial Park Management Co., Eden Memorial Park Association, and Eden Memorial Park. Service Corporation International did not immediately respond to a request for comment.