Crematory Operators, Families Settle for $80M

An $80 million settlement was reached Thursday in a lawsuit against the operators of a crematory where the remains of 334 people were found strewn across the grounds.

The settlement was reached the day after trial stemming from the lawsuit filed by nearly 1,700 people who said their relatives' remains were mishandled. U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy commended both sides for the amicable agreement.

The suit against Ray Brent Marsh (search) and his father's estate came 21/2 years after 334 bodies that were supposed to have been cremated were found at the Tri-State Crematory (search), which served Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

"Everybody, quite frankly, wanted to get it over," said defense attorney Frank Jenkins. "We want it over, we want healing, we want to go on with our lives and I think that's what made it possible."

Marsh, who still faces 787 criminal charges in an October trial, declined to comment. His mother, Clara Marsh, in a joint statement with plaintiffs' representative Carol Bechtel, said "Amen, thank the Lord. Thank the Lord."

Robert Darroch, an attorney for the family members, said payment would come from the Marshes' insurance company, Georgia Farm Bureau (search), and that it and the two parties would work out details Friday in a county court. He said he had "no doubt" the company will pay the money because the Marshes' policy covers acts of negligence.

A call to the insurance company was not immediately returned.

Defense attorney Stuart James said the settlement means the families can now ask a state judge to set aside an earlier ruling that the insurance company was not liable for the Marshes' actions.

In March, the families settled for $36 million with funeral homes that had sent bodies to the crematory. Darroch said the Marshes' insurance company was supposed to pay $3.5 million on top of that for their role but backed out.

As part of the settlement, the building on the crematory property will be removed and no other structures will be put up to maintain a natural state where the remains were found.

Few family members were in court for the settlement announcement.