Thursday, September 29

Lawsuits against Lewiston cremation business on track for trial

PORTLAND — A dozen lawsuits filed against a now-defunct Lewiston cremation business that allegedly allowed the bodies of deceased family members to languish and decompose for long periods appear to be headed for mediation this summer.

Attorney Meryl Poulin from Gideon Asen LLC represents the plaintiffs in eight of the civil complaints alleging the mishandling of the remains of five deceased family members at Affordable Cremation Solution on Main Street.

Poulin said this week that all 12 of the lawsuits that have been transferred to and consolidated in the Maine Business and Consumer Court will, likely, be tried separately if they go to trial.

Although the facts in many or all of the cases may be similar or the same, the emotional distress experienced by the different plaintiffs may vary, Poulin said.

For that reason, the damages for emotional injury awarded to one plaintiff may differ from those awarded to a different plaintiff.

Evidence collected in the various cases will be shared with all plaintiffs who have filed, she said.

In Maine, most parties in civil lawsuits must engage in alternative dispute resolution before proceeding to trial.

That will happen next month, Poulin said.

Because her law firm filed cases earlier than other plaintiffs, her clients will be first in line for trial if their cases aren’t otherwise resolved. Trials could start as early as July.

“Our cases are now trial ready,” she said. Her clients “are all very eager to tell their stories and to have their day in court.”

Having a jury hear and decide the value of one of these cases could help in settling others, Poulin said, because these cases involve solely emotional injuries and those can be more difficult to value than physical injuries.

It’s unclear whether the shuttered Lewiston business’ liability insurance will be enough to award damages to all 12 of the plaintiffs, should they prevail at trial or settle before trial, Poulin said.

“It’s been a complicated issue in these cases,” Poulin said. “As you might imagine, everyone is concerned, wants to advocate for their clients, and wants them to be fairly compensated.”

Attorneys for the Affordable Cremation Solution, its owner and its insurer said this week they were not authorized to comment on the pending litigation.

In the civil complaints that were filed against the business and its owner, Kenneth Kincer, in courts in Androscoggin and Cumberland counties, plaintiffs detailed their horror at discovering their family members’ remains decomposing in the basement of the Lewiston building.

The business, which opened in 2016 on Main Street, began failing in 2020 when Kincer “began spending long periods of time away” because he “was getting drunk in his home,” according to the civil complaint filed against the company by Poulin’s law firm.

Based on a deposition of a part-time funeral attendant who had grown “increasingly uncomfortable” with “taking in human remains with no plan to responsibly care for them,” the complaint alleges that by 2021, Kincer had “stopped coming into the office altogether.”

Poulin said this week Kincer has twice failed to appear for depositions in connection to the lawsuits.

“Our clients have been very upset by that,” she said. “They’re eager to have some resolution here.”

Kincer’s business was shut down and its funeral licenses were suspended in June by the Maine Board of Funeral Service, which said it found unrefrigerated bodies stacked in its basement. Investigators cited a public health violation because they found an odor of decomposition and the unrefrigerated bodies of 11 people in the basement.

Investigators found bodies on the premises “in a state of severe decomposition and there were several flies” as well as dried blood that had oozed from the decaying corpses.

Affordable Cremation Solution has ceased to exist. Kincer’s funeral license has been pulled for at least a decade, though regulators said if he stays away from drugs and alcohol he may someday get it back.

Kincer’s lawyer said several months ago that Kincer has been “in the grip of depression and alcoholism” since his marriage fell apart in 2020.

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