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A Georgia woman is suing the town of Highlands and a Macon County funeral home after she fell into the open grave of her friend in a town-owned cemetery.

Marian May, of Marietta, Ga., fell into the grave of Jean Murphy Henderson in June 2004 while trying to place flowers on her casket.

She remembers the ground giving way as she stepped toward the casket and then hitting the concrete vault 6-feet below. The fall broke her hip, which she eventually had to have replaced.

"It is not much fun being down there, where it's nice and black and you are looking up and I am saying 'Jean, I don't want to go with you,'" May said.

The rescue squad removed her from the grave on a backboard.

A federal judge recently cleared the case to proceed. It could go to trial next year.

In the court papers, May claims the open grave was dangerous because green carpeting, which she says appeared to be a good place to step, was the only material covering its opening. She also says the side of the grave might have been crumbling beneath the carpeting.

She said the town and the funeral home are responsible because they didn't make the grave safe for the service, didn't dig it to the proper size, didn't cover the opening with plywood and failed to warn people about the danger.

She and her husband William May, 92, who claims the accident has cost him the affection of his wife, are suing for more than $75,000.

The town denied the claims in court papers filed in response to the lawsuit.

A lawyer for Highlands said the town didn't know about dangerous conditions at the graveside and that it is not responsible for making the area near a grave safe. The town's lawyer also said May didn't heed warnings from funeral home officials to stay away from the graveside.

Bryant Funeral Home also denied it was responsible for the accident in court papers and said funeral home workers warned May to stay away from the graveside.


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