Second Federal Court Invalidates State's Casket Law
by Robert M. Fells, Esq., general counsel
Following up on the October "Washington Report" column concerning a federal court in Tennessee striking down that state's law restricting casket sales exclusively to licensed funeral directors, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi has made a similar ruling. According to the decision in Casket Royale Inc. v. State of Mississippi, et al., the casket manufacturer plaintiff alleged that the Mississippi law restricting casket retail sales only to licensed funeral directors violated the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court agreed.
Defendants claimed that the state government had a legitimate interest in the prompt disposition of human remains, but the court held that the statute in question "does not advance this interest as nothing inherent in the licensing requirement, at least in regard to a coffin, would offer a quicker burial or cremation."
Regarding consumer protection claims to justify the licensing requirement, the court held that the requirement "not only fails to advance the interest of Mississippi in consumer protection, it actually diminishes it. As a result of this requirement, consumers in Mississippi are offered fewer choices when it comes to selecting a casket. Consequently, there is less price competition among the sellers of caskets. Ultimately, the consumer is harmed by this regulation as one is forced to pay higher prices in a far less competitive environment."
ICFA members who would like a copy of the Mississippi decision should call association headquarters at 1-800-645-7700.