WHITTIER — A woman who sued Rose Hills Memorial Park for failing to return a set of dentures belonging to her deceased mother has won a partial judgment in Whittier Municipal Court.
Virginia Ramos, 74, of Pico Rivera had sued the Whittier mortuary for $1,500, claiming the dentures--made with a solid gold tooth in Juarez, Mexico, nearly 40 years ago--were worth that amount.
Municipal Judge Alfonse Hermo ruled Tuesday that the family should be compensated for the dentures, but he said he believed that the estimate of their worth was too high. Hermo said he would seek an outside opinion as to their value before deciding how much compensation the family will receive.
Lupe Banuelos, 50, Ramos' daughter, said she hoped the judgment would teach businesses "not to take advantage of old people."
"Rose Hills has a good reputation," Banuelos said. "They make you feel that you can put confidence in them. But when we had a problem, no one knew anything, and they would not admit they were wrong."
Rose Hills funeral director Robert Graham said in court that the dentures had been buried with the woman and that Rose Hills had offered to compensate the family.
Juanita Morales was 100 years old when she died in September, 1984. Her body was taken from her home by the Elite Mortuary Transportation Service, which is owned by Rose Hills.
Charlotte Rojas, 76, of Bell Gardens, another daughter, said that when her mother's body was taken, the attendant asked for a set of dentures in order to make a copy to be buried with the body. Rojas said that she signed a form explaining that the original set, containing the gold tooth, would be returned to the family.
Waited Several Weeks
Rojas said the family waited for several weeks for the dentures to be returned and were told by Rose Hills that the dentures had been buried with the body.
Rojas said the family decided to sue when the mortuary offered only $200 for the dentures. The last offer made was for $750, Rojas said.
Graham told the court that the man who picked up the body made a mistake when he said that the dentures would be returned.
"They had always been intended to be buried with the body," Graham said.