Louisiana Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Father extends fight to control late son's remains up to Louisiana Supreme Court

By Carrie Salls | Jun 14, 2016

NEW ORLEANS – Eugene Sonnier II recently asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to review a case related to ownership of the remains of and burial plot for his son, Eugene Sonnier III, who died in 2013 while serving in the United States Air Force.

Judge Marc T. Amy of the State of Louisiana Court of Appeal, Third Circuit upheld a ruling made by the 15th Judicial District Court, dismissing the lawsuit filed by Sonnier II.

“Seeking to challenge the decisions of the lower courts, Mr. Sonnier has applied for a supervisory writ application to the Supreme Court of Louisiana (a writ application is technically not an appeal…the Supreme Court has discretion as to whether it will consider the writ application),” Troy A. Broussard, of Allen & Gooch, told the Louisiana Record

Broussard is the attorney for the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Lafayette, which was named as a defendant in Sonnier II’s initial lawsuit, as well as the Society of the Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Lafayette and the Congregation of St. Genevieve Roman Catholic Church.

 “We are currently waiting on the Supreme Court’s response to the writ application,” Broussard said.

In Sonnier II’s original lawsuit, which was filed against the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Lafayette and Sonnier III’s mother, Norlet Pierre, Sonnier II alleged that “the defendants interfered with his right to direct the disposition of his son’s remains as designated by his son and as reflected by a military form.” He alleged that, by virtue of the designation, the cemetery plot in which his son was buried, as well as the two adjacent plots should be titled solely in his name.

Upon learning of Sonnier II’s and Pierre’s dispute over the ownership of the title, the diocese said the vice president of St. Genevieve Roman Catholic Church “determined that the initial titling of the plot in Sonnier’s name only was in error, and he directed the cemetery staff to issue a corrected title in Sonnier and Pierre’s names, jointly.”

Sonnier II also alleged that the two plots adjacent to his son’s burial site “were improperly given to Mrs. Pierre because they were procured in a deceptive fashion.” Sonnier II said Pierre knew that Sonnier planned to purchase the plots, but did so herself, despite Sonnier II’s alleged right to exclusively control Sonnier III’s interment.

Barring a judgment declaring that Pierre is not the owner of the plots in question, Sonnier II asked the lower court for permission to remove his son’s remains and move them to another cemetery. The appeals court said the facts presented by Sonnier II did not merit removal of Sonnier III’s remains to another location.

In response to Sonnier II’s initial lawsuit, the diocese filed an “exception of no cause of action,” noting that  Sonnier II did not allege that it owned or managed the cemetery, and suggesting that the cemetery’s owner, St. Genevieve Roman Catholic Church, should have been named as a defendant.

“I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the case while it is pending other than to note what is reflected in the suit record, which is that Mr. Sonnier’s lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice by the trial court, and that decision was affirmed by the 3d Circuit Court of Appeal,” Broussard said.

Sonnier II’s attorney, Harold Register Jr., did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

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Louisiana Supreme Court Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal State of Louisiana