A North Little Rock headstone company is accused in a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general's office on Tuesday of collecting $17,500 from various customers and failing to deliver headstones to all of them.
The suit was filed against Damon Duncan and his company Duncan Burial Vaults. Not only did he fail to deliver the headstones, he has spent months -- and in some cases years -- avoiding phone calls and inquiries from despondent customers, the lawsuit says.
"Duncan Burial Vaults has consistently misled grieving Arkansans by promising certain services, then failing to deliver," Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a news release. "My office has confirmed multiple instances where customers paid the company for a headstone for a loved one but never received it."
The company has engaged in "unconscionable, false or deceptive acts or practices," the suit contends.
A message left for Duncan on Tuesday was not returned. Records show he has homes in Hensley and Little Rock.
Several consumer complaints were filed with the state during the past year, which led to Tuesday's consumer-protection action. The lawsuit states that the $17,500 total was paid by nine different customers.
Among those who reported the matter to the state was Fronia Culp of San Antonio, who said she paid $3,500 for four headstones in October 2020, according to documents obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
In her complaint, she said she was told by Duncan that the delays were "due to weather and covid-19." Culp said she continued calling the business and has "received no response" since November 2020.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ford wrote, "[Duncan] did not deliver the headstones families purchased ... [and] stopped communicating with customers and ignored families' repeated requests for the delivery or status of the headstones for their loved ones' graves."
Randy Ellison, 56, of Ward also was among those who filed consumer complaints against Duncan. He said he paid Duncan $2,600 for a headstone to be installed at his 24-year-old son's grave. He paid it in two installments in early 2020. In June 2021, Duncan told him the headstone that was ordered from the manufacturer was "damaged in transit" and had to be sent back, according to Ellison's written complaint. Photocopies of Ellison's signed checks were included in the complaint.
Ellison said he requested a refund, and Duncan claimed to need to file an insurance claim before he could return the money. Duncan then offered Ellison a different style of headstone at no additional cost and said it could be ready sooner, according to the complaint.
"It never came," Ellison wrote.
Ellison said he hasn't heard from Duncan since their last email correspondence in May 2022.
In the news release, Griffin said the company's actions are "unacceptable for any business" and that it was "especially egregious to mislead and take advantage of Arkansans in mourning."
Griffin, who was out of state Tuesday, said over the phone he wasn't prepared to elaborate further on the lawsuit, but "there would be a lot more to say" about the case at a later date.
The state is seeking an injunction preventing the company from engaging in deceptive acts or practices, an order imposing civil penalties and restitution for affected consumers.
Under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, any violator may be assessed a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit states that the company enticed customers by stating in its advertising that "no one can come close to give you [Laser] Etched stones for less than us."
Ford wrote that the state reserves the right to amend its lawsuit because Duncan Burial Vaults has "likely failed other consumers."