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Binns v. Westminster Memorial Park

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District
171 Cal. App. 4th 700 (2009)


Facts

In 1977, Kenneth Binns’s (plaintiff) mother purchased a burial plot for Binns’s deceased father in Westminster Memorial Park (Westminster) (defendant) cemetery. Binns’s mother subsequently purchased three more burial plots adjacent to the first plot. Binns’s mother intended the additional three plots to be used for her, Binns, and either Binns’s spouse or his brother. Binns’s mother died in 1986 and was buried next to her husband in Westminster. Binns went to visit his parents’ graves in 2005 and discovered that Maria Vallejo was buried in the plot next to his mother’s that had been intended for Binns. When Binns saw that a stranger was buried in his own plot, Binns felt as though he were struck by lightning, and began trembling. He immediately notified Westminster. Westminster removed Vallejo from Binns’s plot and reinterred her in a different burial plot. When Binns learned that Vallejo’s remains had to be disturbed in order to move her to another plot, Binns felt that his own burial plot was desecrated because Vallejo’s soul had been disturbed. Binns suffered cold sweats, loss of appetite, and nightmares because of Westminster’s mistake. Binns sued Westminster for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. The trial court found in favor of Binns, awarding him damages. Westminster appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Aronson, J.)

Dissent (Bedsworth, J.)

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