Funeral home served cease and desist order

Published 1:11 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

For nearly a decade, Brenda Wood made a premium payment of $25 for her pre-need plan with Harrison Funeral Home.

Wood established the pre-need contract with Harrison Funeral Home in an effort to ensure that at least a portion of her funeral arrangements would be paid for in advance.

From 1993 to November of 2011, Wood paid nearly $6,000 into what she believed was a trust set up in her name to help cover future funeral costs.

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When she and her family began to consider a move that would take her out of the area, she uncovered some disturbing news.

“There’s no trust set up for us,” Wood said. “I’ve called, and there was never a trust established in our name.”

In October of this year, Wood met with Douglas C. Harrison, owner of DCH Enterprises, which operates Harrison Funeral Home. She explained to him that she was planning a move that would take her away from Butler County and that she would like to “cash out” her policy.

“He patted me on the shoulder and told me that he had to wait for the policy to mature, but that he would make sure I had the money on Nov. 10,” Wood said. “Nov. 10 came and went and I still don’t have our money.”

Wood said she has called Harrison Funeral Home daily since Nov. 10 and has been unable to speak with Harrison.

Messages left by the Greenville Advocate for Harrison were also not returned.

On June 21, 2012, the Alabama Department of Insurance issued Harrison Funeral Home a cease and desist order, which prevents the funeral home from offering, selling, entering into or collecting payments on pre-need contracts.

According to the order, Harrison Funeral Home continued to sell pre-need contracts after its certificate of authority expired June 1, 2003.

“The Alabama Department of Insurance issued a cease and desist order last June against Harrison Funeral Home for selling pre-need contracts without a certificate of authority, essentially a license, and for failing to trust funds for performance of those contracts, both of which are required by the Alabama Funeral Home and Cemetery Pre-Need Act of 2002,” said Ragan Ingram, chief of staff for the Alabama Department of Insurance.

According to the order, Harrison Funeral Home has sold at least 47 pre-need contracts totaling $259,316, which have not been properly funded.

According to the Department of Insurance, willful violation of the Pre-Need Act and failure to make the required trust deposits is a Class B misdemeanor.

“Selling the contracts without a certificate is a willful violation of the act,” Ingram said.

On Oct. 10 of this year, Circuit Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell entered a judgment in a civil case between Jeb B. Harrison and DCH Enterprises and Douglas C. Harrison concerning the control and operation of the company.

According to court documents, Jeb B. Harrison purchased a 50 percent share of DCH Enterprises in June of 2009, and has not received any funds paid on any of the pre-need contracts, nor was he “entitled to pursuant to any agreement between the parties.”

The judgment also states that as “punishment for his contemptuous behavior, Douglas C. Harrison, shall be incarcerated in the Butler County Jail for a period of seven days.”

The sentence was suspended for 30 days in order to give Harrison a chance to “purge himself of contempt by fully complying with the court’s order.”

Part of that order is that Harrison Funeral Home cannot enter into any pre-need funeral contracts until written approval is given by the Department of insurance, and the funeral home must post signs advising customers that the funeral home cannot offer pre-need contracts.

The cease and desist order, issued by the Alabama Department of Insurance, also requires that Harrison Funeral Home contact all purchasers of pre-need contracts sold after the funeral homes certificate of authority expired and offer a full refund.

Harrison Funeral Home will also have to pay $4,449.95 to the Alabama Department of Insurance for the examination fee.

Wood said she fears she will never recover the money she paid to Harrison Funeral Home.

“That’s a lot of money to lose,” she said.

An attempt to reach Jeb B. Harrison was unsuccessful.