Cemetery Faces Scrutiny After Being Forced To Relocate 220 Caskets

On April 9, 2019, St. Matthew's Cemetery in West Seneca, New York faced an emergency.  Engineers had reported that the land near Cayuga Creek had become unstable and may collapse, forcing the cemetery to start relocating 220 graves.  Yet while such action may have been prudent, it raises regulatory concerns that prompted an investigation from the New York State Division of Cemeteries (the "Division").

The main issue is that the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law ("NFPCL") does not permit the removal of remains in an emergency. NFPCL 1510(g) allows a cemetery to remove or repair certain types of dangerous conditions, but it does not excuse a cemetery from the requirement of getting consent or a court order under NFPCL 1510(e) before removing remains from a grave. Thus, while St. Matthew's may have acted reasonably, it actions may nonetheless have violated the NFPCL.

Further complicating this situation are the families of the deceased.  While St. Matthews has tried to contact such families, outdated contact information has made it difficult.

It will be interesting to see what approach the Division takes concerning the exigent circumstances.

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