Funeral Industry News

Mother Wants Refund of Cremation Contract Signed by Mentally Disabled Daughter

October 4, 2010
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Mother Wants Refund of Cremation Contract Signed by Mentally Disabled Daughter

imageThe flier that arrived in Carol Rognstad’s mailbox sounded like a great deal. For only $38 a month, she could prepay for her future cremation.

The 48-year-old, who is mentally disabled, prides herself on doing things on her own. So she called the number listed and set up an appointment.

In mid-July, a representative from Warren Funeral Home visited her low-income apartment in Round Lake Beach. Rognstad signed a 60-month contract, in which she agreed to pay a total of $2,280.

But a few months later, Rognstad began having second thoughts. Because she relies solely on her monthly disability check, the $38 payment had a significant impact. Concerned she had done something wrong, Rognstad called her mother, Holly Anderle, and asked for help.

“When she realized it was a mistake, she told me,” Anderle said. “She tries to be independent, but she doesn’t understand.”

Anderle said she called Warren Funeral Home, Cemetery & Mausoleum in Gurnee and asked it to cancel the contract.

“I said, ‘You had to know she was retarded when you talked to her. It’s obvious,'” Anderle said. The saleswoman said, “‘Yes, but she drives a car and lives on her own,’ which is true.”

Anderle said her daughter passed the driving test more than 20 years ago and lives by herself, but the building has services for mentally and physically handicapped people.

“It’s a monitored-living situation,” she said.

Anderle said that after a short discussion with the saleswoman, the funeral home agreed to cancel the contract but refused to refund the money Rognstad already paid ? $194, according to Anderle.

Angry, she e-mailed What’s Your Problem?

“I don’t think it’s fair or the right thing to do to a disabled woman,” she said.

The Problem Solver called Warren Funeral Home and was referred to its corporate owners, Saber Management Group in Kokomo, Ind.

Thursday morning, Saber’s vice president of operations, Dewey Akers, agreed to look into the case.

On Friday, Akers called back to say he, too, had spoken to the sales representative. The saleswoman told Akers she knew Rognstad was mentally disabled but thought she was capable of understanding the decision.

Akers said the saleswoman spoke with Rognstad and learned she had a driver’s license, a car, a checking account and owns land at a cemetery.

The saleswoman told Akers that based on all of that, she thought Rognstad was “sufficiently sound of mind.” If the saleswoman did not think that was the case, she would not have written the contract, Akers said.

“If she can pass the driver’s test, that shows some mental capability,” Akers said. “That’s why (the saleswoman) did what she did. We’re good people. We want to do the right thing.”

Akers said he does not think the saleswoman did anything improper or illegal, and said there were costs associated with administering Rognstad’s contract.

Still, he agreed to refund the $194.

“We want to do what (Anderle) perceives as the right thing,” Akers said.

Anderle was elated.

She said her daughter can make good use the money.

“I’m so glad to hear this,” Anderle said. “What disturbed me was, how can you talk to her and not realize Carol isn’t normal?”