The defendants in multi-party litigation brought over the alleged dismemberment and selling of human remains through Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors say the firm that brought two of the suits blurred the lines between those cases, and a different suit in another state that recently brought a $58 million judgment.
Megan Hess, former owner of the now-closed Sunset Mesa Funeral Home and Crematory, and her parents, Alan and Shirley Koch, said in a recent filing that an emergency gag order should be imposed against the Burg Simpson firm of Denver, which in two separate suits, represents dozens of plaintiffs who say their departed loved ones were carved up and sold without the knowledge or permission of next of kin.
Burg Simpson hadn’t filed a response to the motions as of Tuesday, but will be doing so, and was unable to comment on the matter, a representative said.
In a separate filing concerning yet another multi-party case against them, the Sunset Mesa defendants contended Grand Junction attorney Keith Killian should be kicked off the case, because he had represented their family in another matter.
Killian said he could not comment on anything that pertains to his role in representing clients.
His firm will also file a response to the motion.
Burg Simpson separately represents more than 60 people in a case captioned Espinoza, et. al. and more than 30 in a second case, captioned Abachiche, et. al.
The suits were filed in wake of an FBI raid on Sunset Mesa in 2018; no case has yet been filed by federal authorities and Hess has denied the allegations in the civil suits.
In motions last week, Hess and the Kochs pointed to a Nov. 19 article on the website of a Grand Junction news station concerning Burg Simpson’s successful suit against Biological Resource Center of Arizona, which brought a $58 million judgment. That suit also alleged decedents’ bodies were being sold without permission, and the website posting goes on to mention Sunset Mesa.
The motion for a gag order filed by Hess and the Kochs blasted the firm for a “self-promotional press release” that “attempted to link the (Arizona) case with the ongoing Sunset Mesa case” and said the firm also projected “non-related information throughout the American media, making it nationwide.”
The three allege “professional misconduct” and “purposeful misrepresentation” that could influence potential jurors and therefore, harm their due process rights.
Although District Judge Mary Deganhart’s Nov. 26 order begins with the words “so ordered,” the document states the motions do not reflect the required conferral with plaintiffs’ council. Deganhart ordered them to comply with that rule and file a certificate of conferral by Friday before she would consider the motion.
“Defendants are reminded of the requirement of conferral on all motions filed; in the future, failure to confer may result in the court striking the motion,” the order says.
Killian, a Grand Junction attorney, represents about 30 people in a similar suit against Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation, captioned Artrup, et. al. The suit also names a family trust and a “John or Jane Doe” trust.
Filed in September, it alleges violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act; false representation; nondisclosure or concealment; breach of fiduciary duty; violation of fiduciary relationship arising out of a confidential relationship; extreme and outrageous conduct; breach of contract; claims under the Rights and Stolen Property Act; violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act; civil conspiracy; aiding and abetting; unjust enrichment and negligence claims, entailing abuse of a corpse, violation of the state’s Mortuary Science Code and cremation statute and violation of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.
In a recent motion, Alan Koch cites attorney-client privilege and asks the court to “dismiss” Killian.
It states the Kochs hired Killian in 2015 to represent their minor son in a personal injury claim and the attorney-client relationship continued until the case resolved in 2018.
The Montrose Daily Press located a case filed in 2017 in the Delta courts, in which the plaintiff is listed as Dustin Koch. The court on Tuesday said the plaintiff’s attorney was Killian, and that neither Alan Koch, Shirley Koch, nor Hess was listed as a party to the case, which was resolved with a confidential settlement.
In the motion to dismiss Killian from the Artrup matter, Koch contends a relationship was formed and that, when their son came of age, Killian “pursued innumerable questions in regard to his parents, sister and niece.” The elder Kochs and Hess are now involved in the funeral home matter, which the motion says is unrelated.
They allege Killian engaged in misconduct to obtain information for his own gain in the Artrup suit; therefore, he should be disqualified for breach of attorney-client privilege.
The defendants also sought an order dropping the “unknown trust” from the suit because “it does not exist and therefore (makes) it an absolute impossibility to answer something that is a ghost.”