OAKLAND, Fla. - A lawsuit claims developers of a neighborhood in Orange County purposely built a culvert that sent water runoff into a cemetery, causing it to repeatedly flood in recent years.
The lawsuit states that after the hurricanes in 2022, caskets and even human remains were floating out in the open in the Oakland-Tildenville Cemetery in Orange County.
The lawsuit, signed by 375 people, has been filed by the Orlando-based law firm of Morgan & Morgan.
The targets of the lawsuit are Pulte Home Company, the owner and developer of the Longleaf at Oakland subdivision, and SM&E, the company that designed the neighborhood. FOX 35 News reached out to both but did not receive responses before the publication of this story.
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The complaint calls their actions "outrageous, needless, and unthinkable," and alleges they were done "all in the name of increased profits."
Malcolm Jones is one of the people suing the developers.
"I was born and raised here in Oakland, and this has never happened. There has never been one case until the development of this residence, and now it’s happening," said Jones, gesturing to the Longleaf at Oakland neighborhood.
He, and hundreds of others, said the defendants should have to fix things at the cemetery.
"They’ve basically done nothing," Jones added.
Records included in the lawsuit indicate that it has been a point of discussion since 2019. An August 2020 email from Oakland’s Public Works Director warns, "It’s only a matter of time before the news media is made aware of dozens of graves being submerged." He continued, "This must be permanently remedied."
That email was sent more than three years ago.
"My dad is out here. My family is out here," said Jones. "I want to be buried out here, and there’s no way that can happen if none of this is fixed."
The attorneys filing the lawsuit hope to convince a jury that Pulte Home Company and SM&E’s conduct was "outrageous, odious, and utterly intolerable" and that they knew it would do harm.
As for monetary damages, the lawsuit says the defendants should have to pay up for two different reasons: as punishment for their actions, and as a way to compensate the victims for the cost of repairs to the graves.