Dorothy VerValen of Kalilspell, Montana, says she was using her car keys to scrape moss off the lettering on the tombstone, when the decaying wood coffin collapsed beneath her. Her right foot sank 30 inches into the grave of Harry L. Smith, who died in 1943.
VerValen, 51, said her left ankle remained on firm ground, but was severely fractured by the fall. Her adult daughter pulled her out and helped her limp back to her car.
VerValen's lawsuit claims that by failing to adequately maintain graves, the city of Sultan, Washington caused her emotional distress and physical injury.
However the city of Sultan, which is about 60 miles northeast of Seattle, argues that the cemetery is protected under Washington's Recreational Use Act, meaning that people must use it at their own risk.
It further suggests that VerValen's excessive weight probably contributed to the accident.
"For them to shift the burden of keeping a place safe only for skinny people is very unfair," said VerValen's attorney, Robert Butler. "That argument has no business at all in this case."