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Ryder sued anew over mishandling of deceased

NORTHAMPTON — A second lawsuit has been filed against William W. Ryder, owner of Ryder Funeral Home, alleging that he mishandled bodies entrusted to his care.

The latest suit was filed Friday in Hampshire Superior Court by Katherine Kopeski of Indian Orchard, who alleges that the body of her mother, Sandra, was not cremated in time for a May 29 viewing; had not been properly stored; and that the urn used at her viewing did not contain her remains.

Sandra Kopeski died at age 57 in an Agawam nursing home on May 22.

Katherine Kopeski contends in the lawsuit that she has suffered recurring nightmares and physical and emotional distress requiring medical attention as a result of the mishandling of her mother’s body.

The eight-count, 13-page suit seeks unspecified damages and a restraining order to prevent Ryder from selling or liquidating the assets of his 51-year-old business. The suit alleges reckless and negligent interference with a dead body, breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.

Messages left for Ryder’s attorney, Paul Boudreau of South Hadley, and Kopeski’s attorney, Mark J. Albano of Springfield, on Monday were not returned. Attempts to reach Kopeski by telephone were unsuccessful.

Ryder’s license was suspended May 28 after an inspection in late May found six bodies were improperly stored or in varying states of decomposition at his funeral home at 33 Lamb St. Other local funeral directors stepped in to oversee funerals that were pending when the suspension was handed down.

According to the suit, Sandra Kopeski already had funeral arrangements made for her at Ryder before her death. Katherine Kopeski alleges in the suit that after her mother died she made multiple attempts to reach Ryder by telephone to discuss the arrangements and that they met May 27.

Kopeski was informed at the May 29 service that her mother’s body had yet to be cremated and her remains were not in the urn being used at the viewing, according to the suit. That information came from “an individual not associated with the defendants” and Kopeski felt “very upset, distraught, distressed and disconnected” during the viewing, according to the suit.

About 25 to 30 people were in attendance, according to the suit, all of whom except Kopeski, her father, brother and aunt were unaware that Sandra Kopeski’s remains were not in the urn.

Kopeski’s mother was finally cremated on June 1 — 10 days after her death — and she was interred on June 7, according to the suit.

The suit alleges Ryder may not be carrying liability insurance and may also be attempting to sell the business and liquidate its assets, hobbling efforts to recoup damages.

A civil suit was filed earlier this month on behalf of two other families who also claim their loved ones’ remains were mishandled by Ryder. They are also seeking damages and a similar restraining order.

There is no date set for a hearing on the suit filed by Kopeski. However, it will likely be joined with the earlier lawsuit for a hearing scheduled on Monday, June 30 according to the Hampshire Superior Court clerk’s office.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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