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Funeral home lawsuit settled

Funeral home lawsuit settled

PORTAGE: Case set new state standard when suing over emotional pain

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PORTAGE | A lawsuit credited with setting a new state standard when suing over emotional pain has been settled just days before it was to go to trial.

The five-year-old suit targeted Dykes Funeral Home of Valparaiso over the loss of the cremated remains of Phillip Alan Blackwell.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the Blackwell family is happy to bring closure to the case, family attorney Harold Harper said.

The family is also proud to have sent a strong message to the funeral home industry, he said, while triggering a change to this area of the law.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled two years ago the Blackwell family could sue over emotional distress.

Porter Superior Judge Jeffrey Thode had dismissed the case based on state law at the time, which did not recognize emotional pain without physical harm or impact to the parties involved, Harper said.

Dykes Funeral Home referred all inquiries about the settlement Monday to Lansing attorney Tom Appel, who declined comment on the case.

The lawsuit was filed by Phillip, Marcia and Michele Blackwell after they discovered the cremated remains of family member Phillip Alan Blackwell were not in the designated resting place within a mausoleum at Graceland Cemetery in Valparaiso.

Graceland was targeted along with Dykes in the original suit, but was later dismissed. The appellate court concurred, saying the Blackwells presented no evidence the cemetery ever took possession of the urn.

The lawsuit grabbed headlines earlier this year when the funeral home attempted to head off further publicity by seeking a gag order, which would have prohibited parties on both sides from discussing the case with the media.

Thode rejected the request, saying it did not meet the stiff burden of proof in the law.

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