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Family of man buried in wrong grave files lawsuit

The family of a Freeport man who was buried in the wrong grave has filed a lawsuit against the funeral home and Hempstead Town, which owns the cemetery.

Edward Toppin's widow, Dorothy, and their children, Karen and Leon, are asking for unspecified damages in Supreme Court in Mineola, saying that they suffered emotional distress when they learned that Toppin, 68, had been buried in the wrong grave, then moved to the correct one without their permission.

"It was particularly offensive, because it meant that he was buried without the religious rites and rituals of their faith," said the family's lawyer, Eric Turkewitz, of Manhattan. "No one should have to go through what they went through."

Neither Michael Deery, a Hempstead Town spokesman, nor a representative at the Carl C. Burnett Funeral Home in Uniondale returned calls.

In the past, town officials have said that they will pay for the third burial, and they apologize "for any upset this situation has caused the Toppin family."

On Nov. 7, 2009, town employees buried Toppin's body in the top level of a two-level grave in Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale. The lower level contained the remains of another man, and the upper level was reserved for that man's mother. Toppin was supposed to be buried in a two-level grave nearby that contained his mother's remains.

When the error was discovered, the cemetery manager ordered Toppin's remains exhumed and reburied - but no one told his relatives.

After they found out about the mistake and reburial, the family had Toppin's coffin raised and his remains identified and reburied in a service.

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