Judges ask family to end litigation over parents’ interments

In a dispute among divided siblings on where their deceased parents should be buried, the Indiana Court of Appeals asked the family to end the litigation and let the parents “rest in peace.”

Mat Warren, Betty Jo Ball, et al. v. E. Lee Warren, Lilly Frayer, et al., No. 02A03-1102-PL-43, pits siblings against each other in a lawsuit seeking to have Sherman and Isabella Warren’s remains disinterred from a cemetery in New Haven, Ind., and re-interred in Barbourville, Ky., where Sherman was originally buried in 1970. One of the Warren’s daughters, Irene, died in 1998 and was buried in the New Haven cemetery. Several years later, Isabella had Sherman’s remains removed from Kentucky and re-interred at the Indiana cemetery next to his daughter.

Four of the children tried to have the disinterment set aside, claiming their mother suffered from advanced Alzheimers’ disease and her authorization for disinterment was wrongfully procured. During the proceedings, Isabella died and was buried next to her husband and daughter in Indiana. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the remaining six siblings, who supported their mother’s decision concerning Sherman’s burial location.

Just a month after Isabella’s death, the four children sought to have her will invalidated and have her remains moved to Kentucky. The remaining six children sought a declaration that their siblings have no standing to seek the disinterment of their mother’s remains or that there is not basis for the removal. The trial court granted the four siblings’ motion for summary judgment, finding they are able to pursue the disinterment and re-interment of their parents.

The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the summary judgment and order with respect to Sherman’s remains, as well as Isabella’s, are in res judicata based on the previous litigation involving Sherman.

“Based on this side-by-side comparison between Warren I and the trial court’s judgment in the instant case, it is clear that the same issue was decided by both courts, i.e., the disinterment in Indiana of Sherman and Isabella and the re-interment of both individuals’ remains in Kentucky,” wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

The appellate court also requested the family end this ongoing litigation, as it is ripping the family apart and draining financial resources.

“We empathize with both sides of the Warren family whose sole intention is to fulfill the final wish of their deceased parents; however, the reality is that Sherman and Isabelle are buried beside each other in a public cemetery and are together with their deceased daughter. Let them rest in peace,” she wrote.

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