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Settlement reached with funeral home accused of claiming deaths to get insurance claims

A Putnam County funeral home and its owners will have to discontinue a major part of their businesses as part of a settlement, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday. (WCHS/WVAH)

A Putnam County funeral home and its owners will have to discontinue a major part of their businesses as part of a settlement, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday.

In August of 2015, Gatens-Harding Funeral Home Inc. was accused of claiming people died in order to get insurance claims. That same month an insurance company asked a judge to order the funeral home to pay $3 million after cashing in on the funeral contracts for people who were not dead.

A lawsuit was filed in September 2015 against the funeral home and its owners, accusing them of cashing in on the funeral contracts.

The settlement will permanently prohibit Gatens-Harding, as well as any related business owned or operated by Chad or Billie Harding, from selling preneed funeral contracts or accepting payments for funeral services prior to the death of the intended person, a release from Morrisey’s office said.

As part of the settlement, the funeral home will also be required to cooperate in conducting a prompt audit of all existing preneed funeral plans. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division will contact families identified in the audit and give them an option to transfer their contracts to other funeral homes.

The funeral home will also be subject to increased monitoring by the Attorney General’s Office, which will include audits six months and 12 months after the initial audit.

The release said this settlement of the Attorney General’s Office is independent from any other administrations, licensing or prosecutorial matters.

Gatens-Harding Funeral Home and its owners will also have to pay $25,000 to cover the state’s investigation into the this matter.

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