Cemetery association cleared in four-year-old's tombstone crushing death

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 30, 2015 5:43 PM

By Peg McEntee

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A cemetery association in Utah has been found not responsible for the 2012 death of a 4-year-old boy who was crushed by a tombstone during a summer excursion with his family.

Jurors in a Park City, Utah, court on Thursday determined the Glenwood Cemetery Association was not negligent in the death of Carson Dean Cheney, who died when the 250-pound (113-kg)headstone fell on him as he took pictures with his family on July 5, 2012.

"We're sorry this family has lost this boy, but we believe the jury heard the evidence and made the right decision," the association's lawyer, Paul Belnap, said on Friday. "The cemetery acted reasonably."

The family's attorneys argued the cemetery association let the 1898 gravestone grow weak due to shoddy maintenance. The family, which lives in Lehi, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Salt Lake City, had sought damages up to $4 million.

The family's attorney, Ron Kramer, did not immediately return calls for comment.

The association maintained that volunteers had inspected the cemetery regularly in the previous months, and engineers determined that the headstone had withstood winds of about 50 miles per hour (80 kph).

The cemetery was closed for six weeks after the child's death, and signs asked visitors not to touch the headstones and to stay on footpaths.

In recent years, several people have been injured or killed by falling headstones.

A 4-year-old girl died in North Carolina in June 2012 when a huge cross fell off a tombstone as she played before Bible study class.

In 2013, a cemetery worker in Texas died when a one-ton headstone fell on him. And in September of 2014, a 4-year-old suffered a serious head injury when a headstone fell on him near Albany, New York.

(Reporting by Peg McEntee; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Sandra Maler)