PLYMOUTH — When Waad Charara’s family bought a cemetery plot in 1996 at United Memorial Gardens, they did so with the hope of keeping their loved ones together in peace.
But the family’s peace has been corrupted after a discovery that raised a host of ethical questions as well as a lawsuit against United Memorial, a popular resting place for many of the area’s Muslim families in particular at its Islamic Gardens site.
Recently, the family discovered that another person with the same last name who died on January 1, 2011, a stranger, has been buried directly next to Waad Charara’s mother in the family plot.
Charara first found out about the mistake in March on the 15th anniversary of her mother’s death. She said she couldn’t believe what she saw when she noticed the headstone of the other person.
“When I first saw it, I sat there for a minute looking at the grave before a neighbor asked me if I was okay,” Charara said. “I couldn’t even talk to her…I was devastated.”
The double-selling of the plot has caused another Charara daughter from a different family, Loubna, who is not related, to become upset after learning from a Wednesday local newscast that it was her father Abdullatif who now rests in Waad Charara’s family plot. Abdullatif was buried eight months ago.
Waad Charara said she wasn’t originally planning to sue but changed her mind after the treatment she received from the cemetery’s office. She and her father Abdul are now suing AMG, Inc., a Texas Corporation, the gardens and parent company Midwest Memorial Group to have the situation rectified and to be compensated for expenses in the 3rd Circuit Court of Michigan. They are alleging negligence, fraud and misrepresentation, and breach of contract.
The issue remains unresolved and Waad Charara says she’s gotten “the runaround” from them ever since she began investigating why another person was buried in her plot.
|Waad Charara and her father are suing after a stranger was found buried next to her mother (above) on her family’s plot in Plymouth.
Documents show that her family purchased three extra plots right next to her mother in 1997 and completed payments in 2000.
“When I went to the office I told the man there that they made a mistake, he looked up and said, ‘We don’t make mistakes,'” she said, his tone remaining “cold” and distant throughout the conversation.
Waad Charara contacted Allen Brothers law firm of Detroit and the case is being handled by attorney Tarek Baydoun. Waad Charara and Baydoun say that the cemetery has committed the same mistake of double selling plots multiple times before.
When a friend of Waad Charara’s (who did not want to be identified) called the cemetery, she said that she received a host of different, contradictory stories.
“At first, they told her it wasn’t my our plot, secondly they said that’s actually my dad in the grave, then they said my dad signed off on the grave, and lastly they admitted to double-selling the plot…to this day I don’t know how to react.”
Making matters more confusing is that Waad Charara discovered that that the man buried on her family’s plot has a wife and son buried in the next field. The process of exhuming and moving the body at the site, which is deemed the Islamic Gardens, is also particularly frowned upon in the religion, making a just resolution to the problem more difficult.
Waad Charara said doesn’t believe the situation was the result of a mistake.
“If they made a mistake, they wouldn’t be trying to cover it up like this,” she said. “They’ve just been so rude the whole time.”
Phone calls from The Arab American News seeking comment from the cemetery and its parent company were not answered and a message was not returned. A Fox-2 News report on Thursday included information about an interview with the director of Midwest Memorial Group, who said the situation was likely a mixup and also that the matter is up to the courts now.
Baydoun says that the cemetery has sent discovery requests to Waad Charara saying that her father needs to come out for a deposition. But her father is currently living in Lebanon and a trip would be extremely costly and inconvenient for him as he would have to bring her stepmother and baby brother along. He also has recently had a knee operation and has had trouble walking.
“It would cost so much for him just to come out and talk to them for a half hour,” Waad Charara said. She has proposed that her father talk via Skype video conferencing or on the phone but hasn’t been accommodated.
Baydoun believes that the tactic is an attempt to pressure the plaintiffs into backing down.
“We need to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family…that’s my reaction and that’s my goal,” he said.
Waad Charara agreed, saying that she’s suffered serious emotional stress. Her visit to her mother’s grave site on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to show news cameras what happened was her first since March.
“What I need is for them to fix the problem because I don’t want them to do it to anyone else,” she said.