A status hearing is scheduled for September 28th in the lawsuit filed by the Missouri Funeral Trust against the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and Catholic Fraternal Life. The lawsuit is now 4 months removed from the request for a temporary restraining order that, among other relief sought, would stay the financial examination of one of Missouri’s largest preneed sellers. Frustrated by an examination process that has lasted four years, the Missouri Funeral Trust has asserted that it is entitled to an injunction because of the lack of controls the State Board has over confidential information obtained through the preneed examination process. But, the delay of the court in issuing a TRO does not bode well for the Missouri Funeral Trust.
This is the second lawsuit brought by the Missouri Funeral Trust to stem the State Board’s financial examination of the program’s books and records. In 2013, the program sought an injunction and a declaratory judgment against the State Board with regard to letters being sent to MFT contract holders. The State Board uses contract data provided by preneed sellers to generate letters that are sent to contract holders of accounts that are not paid in full. The letter makes an inquiry to the contract holder whether their account information stated in the letter is accurate. Referencing five such letters, the MFT cited the court to various problems with the consumer contact process. However, those claims were eventually dismissed.
If the September 28th hearing results in a court order that sets a discovery schedule without the issuance of an injunction against the State Board, the speculation is that the Missouri Funeral Trust will dismiss the lawsuit rather than comply with the defendants’ discovery requests. A court order that provides injunctive relief only against Catholic Fraternal Life puts the Missouri Funeral Trust in a precarious position. The Missouri Funeral Trust has been fairly open in its challenges to State Board requests for documents and records, but the program cannot prove its case against Catholic Fraternal Life without disclosing the documents and information it claims to be confidential. A Catch-22 of the MFT’s own making.