Baseball Legend Andre Dawson Sued Over Funerals

April 26, 2010
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imageA Miami nonprofit that cares for poor and disabled adults is suing baseball legend Andre Dawson and his brother in a dispute involving prepaid funerals.

A publicly funded organization that cares for poor and disabled adults is suing Miami baseball legend Andre Dawson, alleging that his family’s funeral home business reneged on a deal to provide prepaid memorial services and burials for deceased clients.

One man’s corpse lay in limbo for weeks because Dawson’s Grace Memorial Funeral Home refused to accept the remains, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The suit names Dawson, currently a Florida Marlins executive, and his brother, lawyer Vincent Brown, co-owners of the funeral home in North Miami-Dade.

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The plaintiff is the Guardianship Program of Dade County, a nonprofit agency funded by the county and state that acts as a public guardian for poor adults ruled “incapacitated” by the state courts. The organization provides 24-hour medical and social care for the elderly, mentally disabled or people otherwise deemed unable to care for themselves.

Dawson, a Hall of Fame outfielder who played for the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins, did not return a phone call seeking comment. But his brother insisted that their company did not break an existing contract because the prepaid funerals and cemetery plots were sold illegally by a previous owner. “We are victims and just as innocent” as the Guardianship Program, Brown told The Miami Herald.

Lawyers for the Guardianship Program disagree. They say Dawson and Brown must bury anyone covered under the prepaid plans. The suit seeks more than $15,000 in damages. “These agreements were fully funded and made for the benefit of some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community. The refusal to honor them is unconscionable,” said attorney James J. Thornton.

7 PREPAID FUNERALS

According to the lawsuit, the Guardianship Program bought seven prepaid funerals and burials from the Martha B. Solomon Memorial Funeral Home, 1195 NW 119th St, for more than $40,000 from 2004 to 2006. At that point, the seven “wards of the state” were still alive.

In December 2006, funeral home owner Samuel Solomon sold the business to Dawson and Brown, who operate Grace Memorial and agreed to assume the contracts, the lawsuit said.

Then in June 2009, one of the wards, James Knowles, passed away and Grace Memorial refused to bury him. The Guardianship Program “was forced to make alternative funeral arrangements,” the lawsuit said.

As negotiations dragged out, another ward, Jessie Williams, died on April 5, 2010. The Guardianship Program again asked Grace Memorial to honor the contract.

Williams’ body was held in another funeral home for three weeks as the lawyers haggled without success. This week, the program again turned to another business for the burial.

Brown said that Samuel Solomon didn’t have the proper state license to sell prepaid funerals and that he failed to deposit the money in a trust account as required by law.

`POCKETED MONEY’

“He just pocketed the money, and when it unraveled, we said, `No, we’re not taking on the responsibility for Sam’s misdeeds,’ ” Brown said.

The lawsuit says Brown and Dawson assumed the liability of the prepaid funerals when they agreed with Solomon to discount the price they paid to buy the business.

Solomon could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Dawson, a graduate of Southwest High, played in the major leagues between 1976 and 1996 and was chosen for baseball’s Hall of Fame in January.

Brown briefly ran two troubled community organizations, the Metro Miami Action Plan Trust and the James E. Scott Community Association. He and his brother also own the Mahogany Grill in Miami Gardens.

Source: MiamiHerald.com

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