STORY BY HAL SAGA, STAFF WRITER
PHOTO FROM CYPRESS COLLEGE
Details about the Cypress College mortuary science department’s new professional liability coverage agreement with insurance companies RSUI and the Lloyds of London were explained by Prof. Jolena Grande.
The agreement was submitted on April 11 by North Orange County Community College District’s district director of risk management, Tami A. Oh, after the department’s contract to receive anatomical specimens with Los Angeles County and the University of Southern California was terminated at an undisclosed time in the early 2000s, according to Grande.
The county began to simplify their operations after the department received benefits that were extra and not included in the contract, such as the former securing remains available to use for instruction, for example. Grande said that the budget was compressed by using cost cutting measures that were “required either by state statute, county mandate, or a municipal ordinance.”
Without support from L.A. county and USC, the mortuary science department is estimated to pay $130,000 every semester for anatomical specimens. “The other option … is to partner with counties to dispose of indigent debt,” Grande said. Indigent refers to the deceased that are either unclaimed or have no family.
“If we can help reduce some of the workload for the remains that are unclaimed … it allows for [funeral homes] to better serve their clients,” said Grande. She elaborated that it can also reduce costs for instructional labs during class.
A California Funeral Establishment license from the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau in Sacramento county is needed in order to enter into contracts with funeral homes and county coroner offices that offer the unclaimed specimens to outside sources. To keep the license, professional liability coverage is needed to carry an accumulated $5 million in the case that they are sued by a client.
RSUI is set to provide $2 million as primary coverage; the Lloyds of London will provide additional coverage if the primary is paid out for $3 million.
Grande laid out a circumstance in which a family of four could sue a funeral home for cremating their deceased loved ones instead of burying them as they initially wished. “There are four individuals that have suffered harm,” she said, “they may pursue, as many of our headlines show, millions of dollars in reparations for that level of act or omission that was contrary to what they had arranged.”
Court case Karapet Karapetyan et al. v. Forest Lawn Memorial Park Association, a corporation owning multiple cemeteries across Southern California, was filed in 2018 by the Karapetyan family of Van Nuys whose deceased mother bought burial plots for her relatives eight years prior to her death in 2003 next to her own designated site. One plot was allegedly occupied by another Karapet of the same first and last name that was not related to the family; the cemetery claimed to not know what happened and offered to move the mother’s body elsewhere, leading to them suing the funeral home for negligence and distress.
Grande said that due to these circumstances in which funeral homes are sued, contracts with professional liability coverage averaging to an amount that can go upwards of $5 million is necessary. “You will find this is very common for this level of a contract. Many of our funeral homes have similar policies.”
According to the April 11 agenda from the NOCCCD meeting, the total amount paid to ensure the insurance goes through is $41,916.88 for RSUI and $40,240.20 for the Lloyds of London. This has since then been effective since March 29 considering the immediate need for instructional anatomical specimens.
The policy was extended for 14 months until June 30, 2024 to cover the 2023-2024 school year at Cypress College.