BALTIMORE — A Baltimore funeral home accused of throwing a fake funeral and giving a widow a fake urn said in a court filing that its employees didn’t commit fraud because they never explicitly told her the dead man’s ashes were in the urn.
That was one of several defenses made by lawyers for the Wylie Funeral Home in response to a lawsuit by Demetra Street, who said the funeral home buried Ivan Street despite the couple’s wishes that he be cremated, and then staged a phony funeral to trick her.
The attorneys also wrote that, among other things, because Street didn’t pay in full, they weren’t obligated to fulfill her wishes; that the funeral home is covered by a law protecting medical professionals from being sued for fraud; and that Street couldn’t claim emotional distress because she didn’t prove “Defendants’ alleged conduct was intentional or reckless and extreme and outrageous.”
In the filing, Wylie’s attorneys allege that a second woman also claimed to be Ivan Street’s wife, and that they followed that woman’s wishes that he be buried.
The court filing did not deny that Wylie then held a second service and provided an urn for Demetra Street, but said that it did not deceive her.
“Plaintiff did not allege any specific representations made to her about the urn and its purported contents at the memorial service,” Attorney Christian Mann wrote in response.
Street sued the funeral home for $8.5 million in August, claiming that the establishment did not cremate her husband as claimed, and that it had really buried his body in a Baltimore County cemetery. According to the lawsuit, the funeral home did it at the behest of another woman, who also claimed to be Ivan Street’s wife.
Christian Mann, the attorney representing the funeral home and staffers named as defendants in the lawsuit, wrote that while Demetra Street claimed that the $2,500 was paid to the funeral home via “a voucher and through Ivan’s family,” she only provided the business with a $650 voucher from the state to assist with funeral costs. The Department of Human Services offers funding assistance to families who cannot pay the full cost of funeral services.
“Therefore, Plaintiff essentially admitted in her Complaint that she failed to make the required payments under the contract,” Mann wrote. “Since Plaintiff materially breached the contract, Defendant was under no contractual obligation to perform as alleged by Plaintiff.”
Mann wrote that none of the conversations between Demetra Street and staffers cited in her complaint demonstrate that the workers or the funeral home misrepresented themselves and that staffers were open about the fact they were going to bury Ivan Street at the request of the other woman, who claimed to have married him about a decade earlier.
In her original complaint, Demetra Street alleged that one of the staffers told her on Jan. 22 that the funeral home “had rejected [the other woman’s] instructions and confirmed that the [funeral home] would conduct the planned memorial service for Ivan at the Mount Street Home . . . . the next day, January 23, 2021.”
Alex Coffin, Demetra Street’s attorney, dismissed the filing and said in a statement that the funeral home “has refused to address Mrs. Street’s claims in any meaningful or compassionate way.”
He called two parts of their response outlandish, including Wylie Funeral Home’s assertion that funeral directors and morticians meet the definition of “medical practitioners.”
Coffin also took issue with the funeral home’s argument that the case should be dismissed because there is no proof of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Remember, these people secretly buried Mrs. Street’s husband, staged a fake service, lied to her, and dared her to do something about it,” he wrote, referencing a conversation cited in the lawsuit between Demetra Street and a staffer where the staffer allegedly asked her ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’ when she protested the funeral home’s decision to bury Ivan Street.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Coffin said.