I was very distressed to hear lately that in New Zealand, Funeral Directors noticed that a quiet, respectable looking man in his 40’s and wearing a suit was attending up to four funerals a week. Some reported that he had plastic containers and took away food. Newspapers reported that the “Grim Eater” was eventually taken aside by a funeral director and given a stiff talking to.
Surely, this can only serve to drive up the cost of funerals for we senior citizens.
Dishonestly taking funeral refreshments belonging to another without consent is theft.
This is not an uncommon problem especially where the deceased was unpopular and the relatives are desperate to get bums on seats and do not carefully vet attendees.
If you are unable to vet the attendees, I suggest that you avoid general invitations to mourners such as “You are all welcome to join us for refreshments afterwards”. This is implied consent and a defence to a charge of theft. It is probably better to say nothing as choosing the right words can be difficult. Words such as “Will friends of the deceased…” could exclude many attendees especially ex-spouses.
A refreshment ticketing system often used at accountants' funerals is ideal and particularly useful in the event of a tax office audit.
Another argument used by sandwich stealers, especially great aunts, is that the sandwiches were left over and therefore could be taken away. A small tasteful sign saying "Food must be consumed on the premises" is useful evidence. But, legally if the sandwiches were to be thrown away it could mean that they belonged to no one which is a defence to theft. In the case of left over sandwiches, it is difficult to get the Funeral Director to give evidence that they would have been re-circulated at the next funeral. Therefore a "doggy bag" clause in the funeral contract would be further evidence that the sandwiches were not abandoned.
A trespasser once discovered can be asked to leave and ejected with reasonable force. If forcible ejection is necessary it is best to have the trespasser dragged rather that lifted up onto the shoulders to avoid any claim for injury against the estate from over-enthusiastic mourners or from the trespasser him or herself.
John Fytit is the name of the central cartoon charter in Law & Disorder cartoons which started in Hong Kong in 1992. He is from the fictitious Hong Kong firm Fytit & Loos (pronounced “Fight it and Lose”). A very unsuccessful name as people read “Fytit” as “Fit it”. The International Problem Page started in 2005 and was merged into Paul Brennan’s blog. But, not before John Fytit started to receive real legal questions from various parts of the world.