By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The American Moslem Society, 9945 Vernor Hwy., filed a motion for summary disposition July 2 seeking an early decision from the Wayne County Circuit Court for a breach of contract against Woodmere Cemetery.
During a July 3 press conference Attorney Steven Cohen, who represents AMS, said the motion was filed on count one of the lawsuit against the cemetery concerning the agreement between the two entities.
The motion says that to date, AMS paid $406,250 for 650 graves at the cemetery, but Woodmere is seeking payment for all 1,000 graves before any use of the burial sites by AMS.
Woodmere is claiming that its September 2017 contract with AMS requires the mosque to pay for 1,000 graves in advance but AMS is denying that the contract does not include that clause.
In the complaint AMS says its 20 years of business has generated more than $5 million for the cemetery. The deal between AMS and Woodmere includes the 2,000 graves purchased at reduced rates in two sections of the cemetery.
When the second section became full, a new contract was agreed to between the two entities for 1,000 additional grave sites in a third section of the cemetery at the reduced rate.
AMS wanted to begin using the third section in April, but Woodmere refused and requested that AMS pay in full.
On April 12, AMS Board President Mahdi Ali sent a notice to the cemetery saying AMS was ready to move into the third section, but received a letter two days later requesting full payment for all the burial sites.
“This case is not about this mosque or the American Moslem Society against Woodmere Cemetery, this is case is about the community against the Woodmere Cemetery because this issue concerns the whole community,” he said. “The American Moslem Society and this mosque provides these services to the whole community.”
Over the last two decades, AMS has provided burial services for more than 2,000 Muslims at the cemetery, but now Woodmere management is attempting to charge double in price for burial.
A family currently pays around $2,500 for a burial service.
In 2019, 200 Muslims were buried at Woodmere through AMS, Ali said. He also said that last month, only five people were buried at the cemetery because of limited spaces.
“Families had to go to other cemeteries in Hamtramck and Canton,” Ali said at the press conference.
AMS filed an initial complaint in the Wayne County Circuit Court against Midwest Memorial Group LLC, owner of Woodmere Cemetery, 9400 W. Fort St. in Detroit May 22.
The complaint also says that AMS is suing the cemetery for poor services and conditions at the mosque’s sections of the cemetery over the past two years. AMS is seeking $2 million in damages, according to the complaint.
“In these sections, the cemetery’s careless maintenance and landscaping practices have caused damage to existing burial vaults and permitted persistent wet and muddy conditions around the graves,” an AMS news release said. “These conditions, which do not appear to exist in any other area of the cemetery, are unsettling to family members and make the visitation of graves unpleasant and, at times, impossible.”
Ali said that two months ago, the situation at the AMS sections of the cemetery were worse and that after the complaint was filed, Woodmere management started doing some repairs.
“Unfortunately it’s too little too late,” he said. “If you go to the cemetery you can still see unfixed areas and compared to other sections at the cemetery you will see a big difference.”
AMS also sued Woodmere in 2001 shortly after 9/11 when the cemetery tied to cancel the current contract.
Cohen said that the two sides agreed on a settlement and Woodmere apologized.
Calls to Woodmere Cemetery and Midwest Memorial Group for comment were not returned by press time.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)