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NASGA is a public interest civil rights organization founded by several victims and for victims of unlawful and abusive guardianship and conservatorship cases. Please visit our website at for more information on how you can help stop guardian abuse.

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    Sue Warren & Roger Harraman
    MANSFIELD – “Pepsi?” asks 71-year-old Michael Beck when Roger Harraman walks in the room.

    Harraman, who serves as Beck’s legal guardian, knows the Oak Grove Manor resident loves Pepsi, and even though he didn’t bring a bottle along this time, he promises he will for the next visit and instead presents Beck with several new T-shirts.

    Harraman is one of 17 local volunteers through the Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo’s Adult Advocacy Services program. They provide legal guardianship services for those 55 and older suffering from dementia or other illnesses that limit their decision-making capacity. They also keep an eye out for those with no appropriate family to make decisions for their medical care and estate.

    Essentially, a volunteer guardian’s role is to advocate for this person’s care. They become the voice for people who may have trouble sharing what they want or need. The guardians have no say over financial matters and instead are asked to focus the well-being of the people they serve.

    A previous Richland Source story details why the program is important and how people can get involved.

    The reasons that these elders need representation vary, but Sue Warren of Catholic Charities says, “too often” it’s a result of elder abuse, which can be in the form of intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to a vulnerable elder. Warren also serves as a volunteer guardian for several individuals.

    An estimated 1 in 10 older Americans experience abuse. Locally, the Richland County Adult Protective Services, which investigates abuse, neglect and exploitation of people 60 and over, made 245 referrals between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, but elder abuse often goes unreported.

    Harraman advocates on behalf of three people through Catholic Charities: Michael Beck, Michael McMahon and Diane Pahlow. As far as he knows, they don’t have local family members to otherwise care for them.

    “It’s rewarding, every visit. I probably get more out of it than they do,” he said. “I like getting to know them and joking around with them.”

    Before meeting any of these individuals, Harraman represented another man who passed away about eight years ago. Harraman recalls that was a hard day, but the benefits of this job far outweigh the negatives. Though saddened, the retired educator decided to represent another elder, Beck, through the Catholic Charities’ program. That was more than seven years ago.

    When Harraman came to visit him recently, Beck was watching “Gunsmoke.” But he seemed happy to take a break and chat. Beck informed Harraman that someone had promised him Pepsi and hadn’t brought it yet.

    When Harraman later talked to the nursing home staff, he asked about Beck’s health, but he also mentioned the Pepsi situation and learned that the beverage would soon be delivered to Beck’s room.

    Harraman began serving as legal guardian to Michael McMahon and Diane Pahlow this past summer when he heard that Catholic Charities knew of more people in need of representation. Harraman decided to take on the additional responsibility this past July.

    So far, Harraman has only made three visits with these two, but he’s already made an noticeable impression with McMahon.

    “Do you remember me?” Harraman asked this Oak Grove resident in August.

    “Yes,” McMahon answered.

    On this occasion, Harraman sat on the edge of the bed, listening as the 66-year-old man told a few stories. McMahon explained that he always enjoyed bowling, golf and watching Indians games.

    After Harraman visited Beck and before he visited McMahon, he talked to a staff member in what’s called a “care conference.”

    This is a formal process that doesn’t occur on every visit, but it keeps a guardian updated with the details of the nursing home resident’s condition. Harraman hears about McMahon and Beck’s care plan, discussing in detail everything from what they’ve been eating to if they need therapy.

    Harraman is alerted more regularly via phone calls about changes in medication, health complications and other time-sensitive topics. As a guardian, he needs to be available 24/7 to respond to inquiries when needed from nursing home or medical staff. This means that even in the middle of the night, Harraman might have to take a phone call about one of the people he represents.

    Both McMahon and Beck live at Oak Grove Manor, but once he’s done there, he drives down the road to another nursing home to visit Diane Pahlow, 59.

    She had been sleeping when Harraman previously visited, but she still vaguely remembers him. Awake on this occasion, she asks him more about himself and his role as her guardian. He assures her that he’ll make sure she’s taken care of correctly.

    In turn, Pahlow shares a little about herself. She likes singing, dancing and listening to music, especially gospel. The Iowa native moved to Mansfield where her husband lived.

    "But now, I don't have family in Ohio anymore," Pahlow said.

    Harraman and other Catholic Charities volunteers are appointed to be legal guardians by the probate court. And if an elder needs someone to speak on their behalf, the guardians step in and look out for the elder's best interest.

    Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer guardian can learn more by calling 419-524-0733.

    Full Article & Source:
    Volunteer guardian for the elderly shares experiences

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    Image Courtesy of Hans Eiskonen
    Thirty-one staff members at Connecticut’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital, Whiting Forensic Division hospital in Middletown, have been suspended and nine have been arrested in connection with abuse allegations.  More arrests are expected to be made shortly as the facility continues to be investigated, according to police.  Whiting is part of Connecticut Valley Hospital, which is maintained by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.  There are 106 beds at the facility in the maximum-security area and an additional 141 beds in “enhanced security”.

    “It’s really incomprehensible that this could happen in this day and age,” said Senator Heather Somers, a Republican. “It’s like something out of a Stephen King novel. I think it’s very important that we, as legislators, get to the bottom of this. If you are put in the state’s care, you should be cared for. You shouldn’t be tormented.”
    Whiting Forensic Division hospital
    Image Courtesy of NBC Connecticut
    Alleged incidents include placing a diaper over a patient’s head, throwing food at him, placing a mop on his head and pouring water over him, adding salt in his coffee, and kicking him.  And, current and former staff members and patients’ relatives are coming forward with many other accounts.

    Somers said some of their allegations include staff abusing patients, disobeying doctors’ orders and forging of doctors’ signatures.  The nine arrested were charged with cruelty to persons and disorderly conduct.  The other 31 suspended either took part in the abuse or knew about it and failed to report it.  They face the possibility of being terminated from their positions and losing their licenses.

    The abuse came to the forefront after the state Department of Public Health found one of the residents, a 62-year-old male, to have been kicked, jabbed, poked at and taunted by staff members over a significant period of time.  The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asked that Whiting be investigated following a whistleblower complaint.  Some of the abuse was later found to have been recorded by surveillance cameras.
    Mental Hospital Being Investigated After Abuse Allegations Surface
    Image Courtesy of NBC Connecticut
    The 62-year-old patient was committed to the hospital back in 1995 after being acquitted by reason of mental disease in the murder of his father, according to his court-appointed co-conservator, Karen Kangas. The man was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and autism spectrum disorder.  “He’s been traumatized,” Kangas said. “That’s not how we should be treated when we have cancer, and it should not be how we’re treated when we have mental illnesses. I just couldn’t imagine that this all went on.”

    The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services said it would “do whatever is necessary to prevent future incidents” in a statement.  District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, the Whiting’s workers’ labor union, released a statement of its own indicating patient abuse is unacceptable. The union is calling for new management, better training, and more staff as the hospital’s services continue to be investigated.

    Brian Woolf, attorney for one of the staff members who was arrested, forensic head nurse Mark Cusson, said, “We have information from a variety of sources that this patient was an extremely difficult patient and some of the actions they took were justified.”  His client is shocked by his arrest and they plan to defend their position.

    Full Article & Source:
    Mental Hospital Being Investigated After Abuse Allegations Surface

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    A judge has ruled that Court permission will not be needed to remove food and fluids from severely brain damaged patients, a move which has caused concern among opponents of euthanasia.

    Legal safeguard

    Unlike other forms of medical care, the decision to withdraw food and fluids from patients in a “permanent vegetative state” (the term “unresponsive wakefulness syndrome” is now generally preferred) has until now been referred to the Court of Protection, even if doctors and relatives are in agreement.

    Landmark ruling

    Now, the decision by Mr Justice Jackson means those cases will no longer have to come to court. He made his ruling in a case concerning a 50-year-old woman who suffered from a degenerative illness for 14 years. The patient, known in court as M, had Huntington’s disease and was bed-ridden in hospital and fed by a tube. The Court heard that she had shown no sign of awareness for 18 months.

    Mr Justice Jackson agreed with her family and doctors that withdrawing nutrition from her would be in her best interests. The tube was removed and she died in August. Mr Justice Jackson said in his view the case should not have come to court.

    Passive euthanasia

    The ruling was welcomed by pro-euthanasia group Dignity in Dying. Chief Executive Sarah Wootton said the ruling was “a helpful step towards a clearer, more person-centred view of end-of-life care”.

    “When all parties – family, the hospital and treating doctors – are agreed on what someone would have wanted for their care, it seems absurd to require a costly court process to confirm this.”

    Dangerous precedent

    However, the news has been greeted with great concern by patients rights groups. Dr Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing Alliance said: “This court decision sets a dangerous precedent and should be appealed. Taking these decisions away from the court of protection removes an important layer of legislative scrutiny and accountability and effectively weakens the law.

    “It will now be more likely that severely brain damaged patients will be starved or dehydrated to death in their supposed best interests and that these decisions will be more influenced by those who have ideological or financial vested interests in this course of action.”

    The official solicitor, appointed by the state to act for such patients, is likely to appeal against the ruling.

    Recently, a British doctor wrote on his findings that many patients in a “vegetative” state, are in fact aware and can be communicated with.

    LifeNews Note: Courtesy of SPUC. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is a leading pro-life organization in the United Kingdom.

    Full Article & Source:
    Judge Rules Doctors Can Starve Disabled Patients to Death Without a Court Order

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    Gary Ott
    SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would allow the removal of mentally incapacitated elected officials and address troubling situations such as what happened with former Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott will have a new chance to become law next year.

    But it's quite different from proposed legislation that failed to pass in the Utah Legislature earlier this year. And it would only apply to six counties — that is, if they choose to adopt it.

    The bill has not yet been publicly filed, but its sponsor, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, described it as setting the "highest bar possible" to remove an elected official with a permanent mental incapacity in order to gather as much support possible from those who fear it could be used as a political weapon.

    Though situations like what happened with Ott — whose health became the subject of more than a year and a half of public questioning and controversy following a Deseret News investigation — are rare, Thatcher said the issue is too important to ignore.

    Thatcher has said he once knew Ott as a mentor as a friend, before his health began declining.

    "Sometimes doing nothing is the best possible thing you can do," he said. "This is not one of those cases."

    Thatcher urged lawmakers to support the bill so it could be considered by the House and Senate in January, giving it the highest possible chance of passing so counties have a way to address such situations.

    Salt Lake County leaders were able to work with Ott's family to craft the recorder's resignation effective Aug. 1, which was approved by a judge. But that came after more than a year of grappling with how to address the situation, while Ott continued to collect about $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits.

    "At the end of the day, this is what I care about," Thatcher said. "I care that (Ott's) condition was hidden from the public. I care that Salt Lake County came to us and specifically said, 'Please give us a tool to address this in the future and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.' This is the best option I could come up with."

    The Legislature's Political Subdivisions Interim Committee voted Wednesday to pass a draft of Thatcher's bill so it can be considered during the 2018 Legislature.

    The bill alters a previous proposal from Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, that would have implemented a three-tiered process to remove an elected official — requiring a voter petition, a unanimous vote from the applicable governing body, and a court proceeding where a judge could order a medical evaluation of the public officer in question.

    Thatcher's bill would not include a voter petition — which lawmakers previously feared could be used to attack a person's political career — but would require a unanimous vote of the elected body (excluding the elected official in question) and would only be applicable to counties that have at least five elected officials on their council or commission.

    "A unanimous vote is much more compelling than a unanimous vote of two," Thatcher said, noting that many counties in Utah have only three commissioners.

    That would leave only six counties — Salt Lake, Summit, Grand, Cache, Morgan and Wasatch — where the new law would apply, but only if those counties choose to adopt the measure, he said.

    A unanimous vote would then only refer the question of the elected official's removal to a judge, who would then decide whether to order a competency evaluation. That competency evaluation would be carried out by a medical professional who would then report one of only three findings to protect the individual's privacy: "competent, competent with reasonable accommodations, or not competent," Thatcher said.

    He also noted that if the judge orders a competency evaluation, the county would be required to pay for it. If the judge doesn't order a competency evaluation, the county would then pay the elected official's legal fees.

    The court could also rule whether the council "acted in bad faith" when voting to refer the matter to court, Thatcher said.

    "So the county has an incentive not to use it unless for reasons as obvious and as egregious as in Salt Lake County (with Ott)," he said.

    If the competency review finds the person incompetent, the legislative body could then vote whether to remove the person from office.

    "I know it's complicated," Thatcher said, "but we've tried to keep it as simple as possible while still making sure there is absolutely no window through which this process can be abused."

    Though Thatcher urged the interim committee for unanimous support, Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, voted against it — not because she didn't support it, she said, but so it's not rushed through.

    "We still have questions in the air about this," Kwan said, echoing a concern raised by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, about whether an incompetence ruling from a judge might impact an elected official's political future if he or she eventually recovers from the condition.

    "Is this like the death penalty for this person's political career?" Hall questioned.

    Thatcher said lawmakers could consider "a million hypotheticals, but at the end of the day, my concern isn't a hypothetical."

    "Well, we write statutes off of hypotheticals all the time," Hall said.

    "Actually, I wrote this for a friend," Thatcher rebuked.

    Because the vote on the bill wasn't unanimous, it will first be considered in a Senate committee during the 2018 legislative session. That panel will then decide whether to send the bill to the full Senate for further debate.

    Full Article & Source:
    Legislature to consider bill to allow removal of mentally incapacitated elected officials

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    Twenty residents of an assisted living complex in Palm Springs, Calif., missed their medications in a single day because no medical technician was on duty. A woman in a Paso Robles home for seniors pushed her emergency call button after falling in her room and waited 22 hours on the floor with broken bones until staff members responded.

    A class-action lawsuit filed last month in a federal district court in Northern California details those incidents and other similar ones, which allegedly occurred in facilities owned by Brookdale Senior Living, the nation’s largest assisted living provider.

    The complaint alleges that inadequate staffing, poor worker training and rising fees are part of a “callous and profit-driven approach” that has had “devastating” consequences for Californians living in Brookdale assisted living homes. Residents, it claims, “are left without assistance for hours after falling, they are given the wrong medications, they are denied clean clothing, showers, and nutritious food, and they are left in their own waste for long periods of time.”

    Relatives of the seniors involved in the lawsuit declined to comment. The California Assisted Living Association, an industry group, also declined to comment.

    Brookdale spokeswoman Heather Hunter said in an email that the lawsuit is “without merit” and the company will defend itself “vigorously.”

    Tennessee-based Brookdale, which operates 1,121 facilities serving about 100,000 patients in 47 states, has encountered similar complaints elsewhere in the country. A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this year in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., alleges that the company does not adequately staff its assisted living facilities and is not providing the care it promises residents.

    The plaintiff in that lawsuit, Gloria Runton, claimed the Brookdale home where she lives had assured her she would get personal care services based on an assessment of her individual needs, but that as those needs grew over time, the level of her care did not increase. At the same time, Brookdale nearly tripled her fees, she alleges.

    The California lawsuit, believed to be the first class-action claim against an assisted living company under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was filed on behalf of four people currently residing in assisted living homes that Brookdale operates in the state. If the judge certifies the case as a class-action suit, the outcome could affect all residents of Brookdale assisted living facilities in California.

    The lawsuit cites not only the federal disabilities law but also several California statutes, including ones that protect against unfair business practices and financial abuse of elders.

    Because the goal is to win the case, good lawyers often file a number of claims, said Stephen Rosenbaum, a lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley’s law school and a directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance, which is not involved in the lawsuit. “Whether the ADA is the strongest claim is unclear from a strategic standpoint,” he said.

    Rosenbaum said case law has not established exactly how the federal disability law applies to assisted living facilities. It is “ironic” that the attorneys in this case are using the disability law to sue Brookdale, given that the company by definition serves people with some kind of disability, he said.

    The California lawsuit alleges that some of Brookdale’s facilities don’t meet federal and state accessibility standards. Some of their bathrooms can’t accommodate wheelchairs, and the company doesn’t have an evacuation or emergency plan for disabled residents, the suit claims. Of the four plaintiffs named in the complaint, three require wheelchairs.

    If the case is certified as a class-action lawsuit under the ADA, that would be “big news,” said William Goren, a Decatur, Ga.-based attorney and consultant who helps clients comply with the law. That’s because of the nature of the law itself, he said.

    The ADA is designed to address the disabled as individuals whose disabilities can be accommodated in different ways, Goren said. But a class-action lawsuit requires the “class” of plaintiffs to show that they’ve been injured in the same way.

    “It’s very, very unusual that you could go in and get a class-action certified under the ADA,” Goren said. “It can happen, but not often.”

    In California, Brookdale Senior Living runs 89 homes and serves up to 5,000 patients, offering various combinations of independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing.

    In 2014, the company acquired another large assisted living provider, Emeritus, which expanded its presence in California. But the $2.8 billion deal left publicly traded Brookdale with significant staff turnover, declining occupancy and a shaky stock price. A Chinese real estate conglomerate’s recent bid to buy the company reportedly has stalled, creating more uncertainty for Brookdale and the people living in its senior homes.

    Residents of Brookdale’s assisted living facilities don’t require the kind of specialized medical care provided in skilled nursing facilities, but they may need help bathing, using the toilet, taking medications, eating or walking. Some residents need walkers or wheelchairs, while others have mild cognitive impairments or dementia. Seniors who require less care and can cook their own meals often choose independent living homes, which Brookdale also operates.

    Like many assisted living companies, Brookdale typically charges monthly room and board fees, plus separate charges for additional care, such as help with medications. Its average monthly rate for assisted living, including rent, food and some personal care services, is about $4,000, according to the company’s website.

    Both the California and Florida lawsuits claim that to keep its occupancy levels up, Brookdale accepted assisted living residents who might have required higher levels of care, then failed to provide enough staff to meet their needs.

    The consequences of leaving residents unsupervised can be severe. In one case, a wheelchair-bound resident of the Brookdale assisted living facility in Elk Grove, Calif., rolled herself out an open door and fell off a curb, breaking her neck, according to an investigation by the California Department of Social Services, which regulates assisted living facilities. The April 2 incident merited a civil penalty, still to be determined, according to the agency’s investigator. That episode was not mentioned in the lawsuit.

    Tony Chicotel, a staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which is not involved in the suit, said inadequate staffing is a problem at many assisted living facilities.

    Assisted living salespeople tell seniors they can meet all their current and future needs, Chicotel said. “But … the facility will only staff based on revenue they’re getting … at least at the big facilities.” The bottom line, he said, is that residents “don’t get the care they need.”

    Full Article & Source:
    Largest Assisted Living Chain In U.S. Sued For Poor Care Of Elderly

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    Palm Beach Circuit Judge Martin Colin announced he would not run for re-election
    Despite legislative and policy strides, advocates for guardianship reform says little has changed in the courtroom: Incapacitated seniors and their families are still being taken advantage of by lawyers and court-appointed professionals while judges turn a blind eye.

    So in an effort to bring further attention to the issue, an advocacy group that brought about some of those changes plans a town hall on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, followed by a protest in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

    “It’s an attitudinal shift we are looking for in the judges,” said Sam Sugar, co-founder of American Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, who organized all three events. “Somehow these judges shifted position — from implementing laws designed to help vulnerable people and their families to a position of exploiting them instead.”

    Sugar’s grassroots group spearheaded new laws in Tallahassee aimed at protecting incapacitated seniors and their assets when they are put into court-ordered guardianships for their own protection. Florida, as around the nation, has seen a number of professional guardians and their lawyers bilk the elderly and their life savings rather than protect them.

    In Palm Beach County, the chief judge last year handed down reforms after The Palm Beach Post reported on conflict of interest, favoritism and complaints concerning former Circuit Judge Martin Colin and his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, who works as a professional guardian.

    And Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has a task force looking into the issue.

    Still, Sugar hears of abuse by guardians, their bulldog attorneys and the judges who kowtow to them on a nearly daily basis. He says Palm Beach County remains a hot spot for some of the most egregious cases.

    “Right now all we see is window dressing to take the heat off. There are no substantive changes except to move around the offending judges like chess pieces,” Sugar said, referring to how a Palm Beach County judge who was a friend of Savitt’s and repeatedly ruled in her favor was moved out of the Probate & Guardianship Division.

    The events come after a federal jury awarded $16.4 million against the lawyers of professional guardians to a multi-millionaire ward for breaching their fiduciary duty and running up “unnecessary and excessive fees.” The case emanated out of Colin’s courtroom where the judge lavished praised upon the lawyers, who are appealing the verdict.

    On Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Sugar will give a lecture to inform seniors and families about how to protect themselves from unethical guardians and their attorneys, followed by a town hall. On Thursday, he will lead a protest march in St. Petersburg that culminates at a meeting of the Pinellas Guardianship Association.

    “We are going to have a very raucous crowd because a lot of victims are coming,” Sugar said of the town hall in West Palm Beach.

    “This is directed toward the general public to educate, to talk about the risks families face simply by the virtue of their address in Palm Beach County and how the probate courts operate,” he said.

    Then on Thursday in St. Petersburg, the group will march to the Yacht Club where professional guardians are meeting to put pressure on the association to rid itself of what the group believes are bad actors depleting the life savings of incapacitated seniors.

    “We want to demand that Pinellas Guardianship Association start protecting people,” he said.

    Guardianship town hall
    Where: Embassy Suites, 1601 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach

    When: Tuesday 5 p.m. lecture, 6:15 panel

    Who: Sam Sugar and panel, including state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach; attorney Greg Coleman, past president of the Florida Bar; and Anthony Palmieri, deputy inspector general and chief guardianship investigator for Palm Beach County's Clerk & Comptroller. The Palm Beach Post’s John Pacenti will also be on the panel to speak about work on The Post’s series, Guardianships: A Broken Trust.

    Full Article & Source:
    Guardianship reform advocates turn up the heat with town hall, protest

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    Salvador and Mabel Mangano
    The owners of a nursing home where 35 patients died after Hurricane Katrina were acquitted Friday of negligent homicide and cruelty charges for not evacuating the facility as the storm approached.

    The jury took about four hours to acquit Sal and Mabel Mangano, the husband-and-wife owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, just outside of New Orleans.

    "I can't tell you how good this feels, how good those people are," Mabel Mangano said outside the courthouse in St. Francisville, the town about 112 northwest of New Orleans where the trial was moved. "This has been a very rough road."

    They had faced 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty to the elderly or infirm after the patients drowned — some in their beds — when the monster hurricane swept through the area in 2005.

    Judge Jerome Winsberg asked the defendants to stand when the verdicts were read. When Mabel Mangano did so, she buried her face in her husband's shoulder.

    Afterward, the Manganos sat back down and hugged each other. Their daughter, Tammy White, sobbed quietly.

    "I'm very gratified that the two-year ordeal they've been through is finally over," defense attorney John Reed said.

    The victims' family and friends — all wearing black, some with buttons with a picture of the person who died at St. Rita's — sat stoically. None cried.

    Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry read a statement from his boss, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti: "I feel for the victims of this tragedy, and my heart goes out to them. I hope they will be able to put this behind them."

    Yolanda Hubert's 72-year-old mother, Zerelda Delatte, died when the home flooded; her aunt, Gilda Raklen, 90, survived. Hubert said she traveled from Texas to attend the trial.

    "The jury may not have found them guilty, but our savior says they are. When they face our maker, they'll have to answer then," she said. "They still have never said they were sorry. They haven't said 'I'm sorry I let your mother drown like a rat.' They're guilty as hell," she said.

    The prosecution maintained that the Manganos should have heeded warnings and evacuated before the massive storm roared ashore. Failing to do so led directly to the patients' death and suffering, prosecutor Paul Knight had argued.

    The defense argued that the Manganos had safely sheltered in their brick facility for 20 years, and that if the levees had not broken, the home would have been safe.

    The trial lasted three weeks. The prosecution put on 40 witnesses, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who testified that she left the decision on mandatory evacuations to local officials. St. Bernard Parish never called a mandatory evacuation.

    The defense featured five people and took just three days. Neither defendant testified.

    The defense was prohibited from using testimony or documents showing that the majority of nursing homes in the path of the storm

    36 of 57 — did not evacuate, or that there were deaths at other homes, including 22 at a New Orleans nursing home.

    The prosecution, however, did show that three other nursing homes in St. Bernard evacuated.

    More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the Manganos by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

    The couple were the only people in Louisiana to face criminal charges stemming directly from Hurricane Katrina, and jurors said that played a key role in their decision.

    "We talked about that," said juror Kim Maxwell, 46. "There were a lot of mistakes made, and it should have been a lot of people answering for it. So why just these two people?"

    Said juror Michael Cavalier, 39: "The state was responsible for the safety of nursing home residents. They didn't do what they should have. They didn't make the decisions they should have. So when the Manganos made their decision, why should they try to crucify them for it? That isn't right."

    Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola University's College of Law in New Orleans, said the verdict was not surprising, "given the state was trying to characterize as gross negligence something that tens of thousands of others in south Louisiana did."

    "To say what they did was grossly different than what others did, it really raised the question of, 'Why were the Manganos singled out?"' he said.

    The only other criminal charges connected to Katrina deaths are against six former or current New Orleans police officers who face murder or attempted murder counts from a shooting after the storm. But the case is not tied to flooding or a direct impact of Katrina.

    At one time, Foti's office said investigations into scores of patient deaths at nursing homes and hospitals during and after Katrina were likely to lead to more arrests. Six hospitals and 13 nursing homes in Louisiana were investigated. At least 140 patients died in the storm and its aftermath.

    No fewer than 34 people died at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans after the hurricane, but three women arrested by the attorney general's office will not stand trial. A grand jury refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou. Charges against nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were dropped.

    Twenty-two people died at Lafon Nursing Home, run by nuns of the Holy Family order in eastern New Orleans. Residents were moved to the second floor as flooding began, but the home lost electricity. Rescuers did not arrive at Lafon until days later amid a heat wave that had gripped the city.

    Foti investigated the deaths at Memorial Medical Center, St. Rita's and LaFon. The results of the LaFon investigation were turned over to the New Orleans district attorney a year ago, but no action has been taken. A spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the case remains under investigation.

    Full Article & Source:
    Katrina Nursing Home Owners Acquitted

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    State Auditor Tim Keller’s office on Thursday issued an “emergency risk” advisory for the state Office of Guardianship based on an initial review that showed the agency has failed to properly oversee more than 20 private companies that are paid by the state to provide guardian services for vulnerable, indigent New Mexicans.

    The Guardianship Office, which has about 900 clients, is responsible for monitoring and enforcing state contracts with private firms appointed by the courts to make the legal and other decisions for people deemed incapacitated through disability.

    Keller’s office launched an audit of contract guardianship firms at the request of state District Judge Shannon Bacon of Albuquerque after one of the Office of Guardianship’s contractors, Ayudando Guardians, and two company executives were indicted in July on federal charges related to the alleged embezzlement of up to $4 million in client funds.

    “The OSA’s (Office of State Auditor) initial fact-finding revealed a widespread failure of the Office of Guardianship to oversee contract guardians,” Keller said in a letter Thursday to officials with the state Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, which oversees the Guardianship Office.

    “In short, although the courts and our citizens rely on the Office of Guardianship to protect against fraud and abuse by contract guardians, the Office has few systems in place or resources to discharge that duty,” the letter said.

    For example, the office monitored only two of 21 guardianship contracts last fiscal year, the letter said. The office didn’t address complaints about contract guardians and didn’t have formal approved policies for contract guardians for the last fiscal year.

    Required periodic reporting by contract guardians was irregular, and the office failed to follow up with those companies that hadn’t reported.

    “Without these basic systems in place, the Office could not have been monitoring the accuracy of billing or identifying early signs of the types of fraud and abuse that led to the Ayudando indictments,” the letter said.

    Since the indictment, the U.S. Marshals Service has closed the Albuquerque-based Ayudando Guardians. Ayudando was paid more than $650,000 a year under its state contract but also had private-pay clients and disbursed federal veterans’ and Social Security benefits to other clients.

    The letter said that the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council “suggests that a severe lack of resources and capabilities are contributing to the problems at the Office of Guardianship. Monitoring efforts have been hampered by a lack of adequate staffing, expertise and travel budget.”

    John Block III, executive director of the disabilities council, didn’t return a Journal request for an interview Thursday.

    But in August, Block told the Journal the Office of Guardianship had two compliance officers to monitor the cases of about 900 clients. To be eligible, clients cannot earn more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

    An estimated 100 people were on a waiting list for guardianship services, Block said.

    With a $6.4 million annual budget, Block told the Journal, “We do the best we can to stretch the funding as much as we can.”

    Aside from the Guardianship Office, the only other oversight of the 900 state guardianship clients is through the courts, which require a confidential annual report from each guardian.

    The state’s guardian and conservator system has been under study by a state Supreme Court commission that is set to unveil its initial recommendations for reform at a meeting today.

    During a May commission meeting, then-Ayudando Chief Financial Officer Sharon Moore testified that her agency is subject to regular audits by the Office of Guardianship.

    But Block later told the Journal the audits aren’t financial, but are technical reviews to ensure proper documentation of client information.

    Moore and Ayudando President Susan Harris are accused of siphoning client funds to finance a lavish lifestyle for themselves and their families. They have pleaded not guilty.

    Keller’s letter to Block, which was forwarded to the state Attorney General, legislative leaders and the state Department of Finance and Administration, was obtained by the Journal.

    The letter recommended that the Guardianship Office “immediately be subject to more thorough oversight and management. This may necessitate bringing in staff on loan from other agencies or a contracted firm to assist with the Office of Guardianship’s day-to-day work and to address the backlog of unresolved complaints and irregular reporting.”

    It may also require additional funding on an emergency basis or through a budget transfer, Keller wrote.

    He also recommended that, in advance of the legislative session that starts in January, the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez consider “possible enhancement, revision or restructuring” of the office and its responsibilities, including evaluating whether the planning council is the appropriate agency to oversee the Guardianship Office. Up until 2003, the Guardianship Office was overseen by the Attorney General’s Office.

    Full Article & Source:
    Who guards the guardians? State auditor says agency fails to oversee firms

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    5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST
    This evening we have three guests:

    Luanne Fleming & Robin Astin F.A.C.E.U.S.

    Brian Kinter: Judicial Accountability Movement (JAM)

    We will be discussing the demand to end the probate system in all its forms, including family courts, guardianship/conservator ship, and returning to a system of law where our rights are preserved and protected.



    We can no longer allow these unconstitutional administrative tribunals to destroy families and steal the lives of their victims.

    We can no longer allow the judiciary to turn a blind eye to the destruction of families and individuals, including children taking place every day across the country. All for profit.


    LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

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    MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — Michael Scott Christie, 63, of Lame Deer, Montana, pleaded guilty Monday in Chippewa County District Court to two felony charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult for his role in taking $340,000 from the estate of his mother.

    A pre-sentence investigation was ordered and sentencing scheduled for Oct. 31.

    Christie's wife, Martina Annette Christie, 61, faces 12 felony charges for alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. She made her first court appearance earlier this month.

    The charges allege that the couple exploited $340,000 from the estate of Michael Christie's mother.

    They allegedly used more than $40,000 of her financial resources for their own lifestyles. Court documents also allege that Michael Christie transferred two parcels of Chippewa County farmland worth a combined $300,000 to Martina Christie for consideration of less than $500.

    Michael Christie's mother died in February 2015.

    Prior to that, the Clarkfield woman was evicted from the Clarkfield Care Center for non-payment in late 2014 and accumulated over $72,000 in expenses.

    The criminal complaint says Michael and Martina Christie paid the Care Center only $200 during that period, while they spent over $6,000 on clothing for themselves and wrote themselves $6,000 worth of checks.

    Full Article & Source:
    Son pleads guilty to his role in exploiting mother's estate for $340,000

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    When they get together in Tallahassee on Friday, the members of Florida’s nursing-home industry can either circle the wagons or lay the groundwork to take a deep, honest look at how best to confront one of the worst tragedies the industry has seen.

    The Florida Health Care Association has called a “summit” to address emergency preparedness. This comes after eight, then nine and, as of Thursday, 10 elderly residents in a Hollywood Hills nursing home were left to suffer and die because they were in an stiflingly hot facility that lost electricity as Hurricane Irma blew through.

    The industry is rattled by Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency rule requiring that all nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a generator and fuel to keep buildings cool for four days after losing power.

    It’s the right call now, and the right call back in 2006, when a similar proposal died in the Legislature. The industry helped throw it under the bus. And look what happened.

    The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills had a generator, but not to power air conditioning, which made it useless as the residents were overcome. It also had a hospital across the street. But nursing-home residents were never evacuated there, not until after the first deaths among them.

    Nursing home officials, inexplicably, blame Scott for their troubles, whom they called for help as the situation got worse. The governor had given his cell-phone number to a group of nursing home owners during a pre-hurricane strategy session.

    But in a state report, Scott put the blame where it squarely belongs: “This facility is failing to take responsibility for the fact that they delayed calling 911 and made the decision to not evacuate their patients to one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which is directly across the street.

    “The more we learn about this, the more concerning this tragedy is.”

    But zoom out from this one particular tragedy, and Floridians will find that, big picture, the Scott administration as well as industry muscle continue to give cover to nursing homes that shouldn’t be in business.

    Time and again, the Legislature and the governor have failed to insist that nursing homes and ALFs are responsible actors in caring for sick and vulnerable Floridians. The failed generator legislation is but one example. Pushback against stringent state monitoring is another.

    The Herald now reports that nursing home inspection results are heavily censored, blacking out unpleasant findings such as “bruises,” “substance,” and “accidentally.” This means that families looking for a safe facility for an elderly loved one can’t get a full accounting; and troubled families who suspect all is not well in a nursing home are left with more questions than answers — and little recourse.

    This is wrong, especially when the state tries to hide behind the federal government’s skirts, alleging that its rules mandate keeping sensitive information from the public. The truth is, the Herald reports, the state must submit inspection reports to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which are available for public scrutiny — uncensored.

    The people of this state deserve better than this. The discussion at Friday’s summit can’t stop at generators. Industry leaders must far more discussion about meeting the needs of such vulnerable residents. Why wait for another tragedy?

    Full Article & Source:
    Protect nursing home residents, not bad facilities

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    A special commission on Friday unveiled a slate of ambitious proposals to strengthen oversight of the state’s ailing guardian and conservator system, which oversees finances and other major decisions for many of New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens.

    The Supreme Court-appointed commission’s recommendations include hiring special court employees to hear grievances and requiring more accountability from the professionals appointed to make decisions for incapacitated people.

    Other recommendations include requiring mediation or “facilitated family meetings” between feuding relatives in contested cases and creating an “adult protected person” oversight board to regulate professional guardians and conservators, who must be certified and bonded.

    The initial set of proposals, due to the Supreme Court by Oct. 1, focus on ways to improve the professionalism of corporate guardians and conservators who handle a protected person’s finances by requiring bonding to protect an incapacitated person’s assets.

    The state’s courts are responsible for appointing guardians and conservators for incapacitated individuals who can’t handle their own affairs. Often family members are appointed, but if there is no family or if family members are feuding, courts would appoint third-party professional guardians.

    Dozens of families have come forward since a Journal series highlighted the problem, detailing concerns and potential deficiencies in the system, sparking the decision to make changes.

    The commission also proposed requiring certification of all corporate guardians and conservators, presumably by a national guardianship agency, but backed off the idea of requiring a state license that an oversight board could revoke for malfeasance or misconduct.

    Chaired by retired state District Judge Wendy York, the group was tasked in April with providing the Supreme Court with concrete ways to improve the system that, in an attempt to protect the incapacitated person, operates out of the public eye. All hearings are held in closed courtrooms, with few participants and with nearly all court records sealed.

    Enhanced reporting

    Typically, the only oversight of such cases has been the guardian’s or conservator’s filing of a several-page annual report to the judge each year, but the commission is recommending enhanced reporting to include bank and financial statements. Such filings would continue to be sealed.

    Family members who have in the past been stymied by a lack of access to the courts to air complaints about a loved one’s treatment or a guardian or conservator’s conduct could file grievances with an independent court commissioner who would investigate and, if warranted, report to the judge in the case.

    Under the recommendations, judges in appointing a guardian or conservator also would have to make specific findings of fact if they deviate from an incapacitated person’s advance directive, trust, will or estate plan.

    “I feel like we’ve made some headway,” said Emily Darnell Nuñez, the sole layperson appointed to the commission. “We haven’t solved all the problems, but we have made a good first step.”

    Last year, the Journal series “Who Guards the Guardians?” prominently featured the protracted guardianship/conservator case of Nuñez’s mother, Blair Darnell.

    Secrecy issue

    The thorny issue of secrecy and sequestration of such cases wasn’t addressed in the initial set of proposals but is scheduled to be discussed by the commission later this year, along with other possible recommendations for changes in state law.

    A final commission report is expected by Jan. 1, ahead of a 30-day legislative session, and could include funding proposals for reforms if approved by the Supreme Court and endorsed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

    Over the past decade, there have been prior attempts at reform involving commissions appointed by the Legislature.

    But state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said this marks the first time the state Supreme Court has taken the lead.

    “The court, in bringing this to the forefront, has to do something. We (state legislators) have to do something; we can’t let this fester any longer,” said Ortiz y Pino, a commission member and longtime advocate for reform.

    The 16 commission members include judges, attorneys, a psychologist, two appointees from Martinez’s administration and current and former legislators.

    Although mostly disgruntled family members testified at monthly commission meetings, the commission’s work gathered momentum after July’s federal criminal indictment of top executives of a longtime Albuquerque-based corporate guardianship/conservatorship firm, Ayudando Guardians, for alleged embezzlement of millions in client funds.

    Weeks earlier, state financial regulators announced they had found evidence of siphoning of $4 million of client trust funds at Desert State Life Management, which originally handled special trusts and guardianships for special needs clients and still retained some court-appointed conservator cases.

    Just this week, State Auditor Tim Keller alerted state officials to an initial audit finding that New Mexico’s Office of Guardianship, which provides guardianship services to about 900 indigent clients through private contracts with guardianship firms, had lax internal controls, failed to investigate complaints about contractors and performed required annual compliance reviews on only two of 21 state-funded guardianship companies last year.

    Ortiz y Pino said the recent revelations about guardianship companies “have reinstated the belief that this is a big mess.”

    “The question will be: Is the state willing to spend the money to bring about these changes?”

    Full Article & Source:
    Ambitious guardian changes proposed

    0 0, South Georgia News, Weather, SportsALBANY, GA (WALB) - Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made an arrest in a multi-county investigation of the exploitation of disabled or elderly adults.

    Michelle Oliver, 39, was arrested Tuesday at her home in Forsyth after investigators with several agencies searched a personal care facility in Albany.

    Oliver has been transported to the Dougherty County Jail and will have her first court appearance Thursday morning.

    According to officials, the investigation began in July when neighbors told police that residents renting from Oliver were begging for food.

    During the search at the homes at South Jackson Street and Flintside Drive, seven disabled or elderly adults were found. They were treated by EMS and Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and relocated to licensed facilities.

    The apartments were condemned by Albany Code Enforcement because of the living conditions.

    When officials searched Oliver's home in Forsyth and a residence connected to Oliver in Macon, seven additional elderly or disabled adults were found. They were all relocated.

    Oliver is facing charges for exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults, elder persons, and residents (felony); neglect of a disabled adult, elder person, and resident (felony); and for operating an unlicensed personal care home (misdemeanor).

    The investigation is still active and more charges against Oliver are expected. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the GBI office in Sylvester at 229-777-2080.

    Full Article & Source:
    GBI makes arrest in disabled, elderly exploitation case

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    Christopher Wimmer
    That'll teach him.

    A Florida paramedic accused of taking selfies with incapacitated patients and sending them to a co-worker in a "selfie war" has been sentenced to jail time, according to the Panama City News Herald.

    Christopher Wimmer has been sentenced to six months in jail and three years or probation, the outlet reported.

    He'll also have to perform 100 hours of community service and pay court fees.

    Okaloosa County Circuit Judge William Stone barred Wimmer, 35, from working as a paramedic while completing his sentence, the News Herald reported.

    He's said to have told the judge he "deeply regretted" what he had done.

    "When I see ambulances drive by every single time in Boston, it reminds me of the mistakes that I've made and how it affected everyone else that was involved," he said.

     "To all the patients and their families, I want you to know how sorry I am for the things that I did and the crimes I committed."

    The embattled paramedic reportedly pleaded no contest to seven felony counts of interception and disclosure of oral communications.

    Kayla Dubois and Wimmer took compromising photos of patients inside ambulances without their knowledge or consent.
    Kayla Dubois and Wimmer took compromising photos of patients inside ambulances without their knowledge or consent.(Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office)
    He also pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of battery, which he was charged with after it came to light that he held open the eyelids of a sedated woman while posing for a photo.

    One patient, Pamela Burman, told the paper she felt justice had not been served.

    "For him not to get more jail time than he did is adding insult to injury," she said. "We were devalued as human beings … and he felt that he could laugh at us."

    Wimmer and a female paramedic, Kayla Dubois, were investigated and charged in 2016 amid allegations that the pair were locked in an ongoing "selfie war," according to the News Herald.

    The duo were believed to have photos of patients that were in their care inside ambulances on their cell phones.

    An investigation revealed that 41 patients were photographed and/or recorded without their knowledge or consent.

    Dubois was sentenced to two years of probation last month.

    Wimmer reported to jail on Sept. 22 to start his sentence.

    Full Article & Source:
    Paramedic accused of taking selfies with incapacitated patients gets 6 months in jail

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    Gregory G. Stagliano
    MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> A Delaware County personal injury attorney waived arraignment Wednesday on charges that he stole more than $400,000 in settlement funds that were supposed to go to his clients.

    Gregory G. Stagliano, 61, of the 500 block of Chaumont Drive in Radnor, is charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft of services, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property, all felonies of the third degree, in allegedly pocketing money that was supposed to go to nine different victims he represented in personal injury cases. Stagliano is additionally charged with unauthorized practice of law.

    District Attorney Jack Whelan said when announcing the charges in May that investigators led by county Detective Michele Deery began looking at Stagliano in July 2016, based on a tip from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

    Investigators found a similar pattern of theft in each of the nine cases, with Stagliano allegedly depositing funds meant for clients into his own Santander Interest on Lawyers Trust Account for personal use.

    In one case, Stagliano received $65,000 that was supposed to go to the victim in a car accident, according to a release from the District Attorney’s office. But prosecutors claim Stagliano paid the victim only $7,500, then warned her to stop contacting him seeking the balance.

    “I wish you to cease your continued harassing communications in this regard and if you do not, we will go about it in a different way,” he allegedly told that victim.

    An investigation by the Disciplinary Board revealed that Stagliano still owed that victim $40,000. Deery looked into the bank records and found just $133.77 remained in the account, according to the release.

    “As prosecutors, we find the violation of his sworn fiduciary responsibly especially disturbing and Mr. Stagliano used this position in order to fund his own lavish lifestyle and pay his own personal debts with his clients’ money,” said Whelan. “Individuals should be able to trust their attorneys and abusing that trust is both unethical and in this case criminal. Today’s arrest of Mr. Stagliano should send a clear message that no one is above the law.”

    A pretrial conference date was not immediately available. Anyone who believes they also have been victimized by Stagliano is urged to contact Deery at 610-891-8745.

    Full Article & Source:
    Lawyer heads to trial for $400G theft from clients

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    Lanique Elaine Pettus
    A woman accused of stealing nearly $10,000 from an elderly man by falsifying his signature on checks and using his debit card to make rent and car payments is being sought by authorities, according to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office and court documents.

    Lanique Elaine Pettus, 32, is wanted on one count of exploitation of an older person, 16 counts of forgery and six counts of fraudulent use of credit card; all felonies, according to a criminal complaint filed in a Henderson courthouse.

    The 80-year-old man was victimized through “deception intimidation or undue influence” last year from Feb. 1 to March 31, according to the complaint.

    The fraudulent checks were written for amounts ranging from $150 to $780, and the debit card was used for payments in the range of $268 to $888, totaling about $9,500, according to the complaint.

    Prosecutors today released photos of Pettus allegedly cashing the fraudulent checks at valley banks.

    It wasn’t immediately clear when the case was filed.

    Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or

    Full Article & Source:
    Police looking for woman accused of stealing from elderly man

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    Me Ann Soden
    Instead of going through the courts to address issues of financial exploitation or abuse towards the elderly, Me Ann Soden offers mediation to simplify the process and make the elders a quality of life and the respect of their rights.

    The lawyer and mediator licensed montreal is a pioneer in the area of elder Law. It opened in 2007, a legal clinic, a mobile pro bono (free services). She was passing through the area in mid-September, to represent an elderly person.

    there are so much injustice to the elderly, this is terrible inhumanity in the face of them. For me it is a privilege and an honor to help them. They are grateful for

    Me Ann Soden

    “It serves the whole of the province and meeting with seniors in a familiar environment in order to make them more comfortable. It also allows us to check if the people around, often family, control or manipulate our client, stresses Me Soden.

    “The elders do not know their rights and families. They do not abuse it, not always intentionally, but in some cases they give themselves the right to take the money, because they take care of the person,” laments the lawyer.

    Rights violated

    For Me Ann Soden, the cases of injustice and abuse against seniors are many. “The basis, the seniors have the right to be involved in the decisions, of having their wishes honored and to get respect, she said.

    “The legal representatives think that as soon as a mandate in case of incapacity is certified, they can take all the decisions without regard to the wishes of their mother or their father. This is not the case, says Me Soden.

    “The problem is that they choose depending on their values and decisions will often go against what it wants to the person. It is insulting to the latter.”

    Simplified process

    The legal clinic founded by Me Ann Soden, is designed to streamline the process in cases of abuse and allows you to avoid prosecution of fraud against the legal representatives, among others.

    “The person may have memory loss, but is very capable of understanding that his nephew has neglected to pay for their accommodation. It assists in there, arrangements are made simple with something like a pre-authorized payment and revokes the power of attorney to the nephew, quotes the lawyer as an example.

    “It involves the elder in all decisions. We made an assessment of the degree of skill, but also of the legal representative to determine whether he has a heart to help the elder, if he is honest or is a good manager, ” she adds.

    “If there has been financial exploitation, are discussed in the presence of a banker, an accountant and a social worker. If the elder has money, we will hire someone to take care of its finances. Otherwise, it puts in place measures of protection. We are trying to recover the money, either directly or on the inheritance on the death of the customer,” mentions Me Soden.

    Full Article & Source:
    “The elders have the right to be heard and respected.”

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    JPMorgan Chase & Co. was ordered by a Dallas jury to pay more than $4 billion in damages for mishandling the estate of a former American Airlines executive, but the verdict will probably be knocked down on appeal.

    Jo Hopper and two stepchildren won the probate court verdict over claims that JPMorgan mismanaged the administration of the estate of Max Hopper, who was described as an airline technology innovator in a statement issued by the family’s law firm.

    Large punitive damages verdicts like the one in the Hopper case are often scaled back because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they can’t be disproportionate to actual damages. In this case, the jury awarded less than $5 million in actual damages.

    The bank said it acted in a professional manner and in good faith on Hopper’s estate and is “highly confident” the jury verdict won’t stand under Texas law.

    “Clearly the award far exceeds any possible interpretation of Texas tort reform statutes,” Andrew Gray, a spokesman for the bank, said in an emailed statement. “There has been no judgment entered by the court based on this verdict.”

    Max Hopper, who pioneered a reservation system for the airline, died in 2010 with assets of more than $19 million but without a will and testament, according to the statement. JPMorgan was hired as an administrator to divvy up the assets among family members.

    Putters, Wine

    “Instead of independently and impartially collecting and dividing the estate’s assets, the bank took years to release basic interests in art, home furnishings, jewelry, and notably, Mr. Hopper’s collection of 6,700 golf putters and 900 bottles of wine,” the family’s lawyers said in the statement. “Some of the interests in the assets were not released for more than five years.”

    "The nation’s largest bank horribly mistreated me and this verdict provides protection to others from being mistreated by banks that think they’re too powerful to be held accountable," Jo Hopper said in the statement.

    The court’s verdict form shows jurors awarded $8 billion in punitive damages against the bank. Alan Loewinsohn, attorney for Jo Hopper, said in an interview there may be duplication of some of the damage findings. As a result, he said, the punitive damage award could end up being “somewhere between $4 billion and $8 billion.”

    Loewinsohn said he asked the jury to take into account the bank’s worth and asked them for $2 billion in punitive damages. “I believe they used that figure for the other parties in the case as well,” he said.

    Fiduciary Duty

    The jury found that the bank committed fraud, breached its fiduciary duty and broke a fee agreement, according to court papers.

    At the lower end of that range, the jury’s award would erase almost two-thirds of the $6.6 billion profit that JPMorgan generated globally during the second quarter.
    And it would rank high among the largest sanctions ever levied against the bank -- somewhere between the $2.6 billion it agreed to pay in 2014 for allegedly failing to stop Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and a $13 billion settlement it reached with government authorities in 2013 for its handling of mortgage bonds that fueled the financial crisis.
    The verdict form shows jurors were advised to consider factors including “the net worth of JPMorgan.” Indeed, the bank has a stock market value of about $330 billion.

    Full Article & Source:
    JPMorgan Ordered to Pay More Than $4 Billion to Widow and Family

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    Berlicia Chambers
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – A former caregiver will serve jail time and probation after pleading no contest to stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly woman with dementia.

    Tallahassee police arrested 46-year-old Berlicia Chambers in May on elderly exploitation charges.

    Court documents allege Chambers stole at least $14,800 over a four year span from a woman who she was hired to care for. Investigators say the 78-year-old victim had memory problems and showed signs of dementia.

    Arrest records say Chambers used an ATM card to withdraw cash from the victim’s account, and used the victim’s credit card to pay for personal expenses, including her satellite TV and cell phone.

    Chambers was sentenced to 120 days in jail, with 88 days credit for time already served. She was also ordered to serve 6 years of probation and pay restitution of $12,980.

    Full Article & Source:
    Caregiver sentenced for stealing from elderly woman

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    SARASOTA — The pool of around 140 potential jurors who were interviewed Monday in the trial of a former Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputy charged with attempted murder, was reduced to around 65 who will return Tuesday for a final round of questions.

    Jury selection was the beginning of the trial for Frank Bybee, 46, who is facing 18 felonies, including attempted murder, exploitation of the elderly, burglary, theft and kidnapping. He faces a life sentence if he is convicted of the first-degree felony charge for attempted murder.

    His trial was postponed for 20 days after his attorney withdrew and a former Manatee County judge, John Lakin, joined the defense team causing a conflict of interest with 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Thomas Krug. Lakin is currently under investigation by the Florida Bar for actions taken while he was on the bench.

    Krug recused himself from the case and Chief Judge Charles E. Williams asked the Florida Supreme Court to appoint a judge from outside of Sarasota County. Judge Donald H. Mason of Charlotte County was assigned to the case that was original scheduled to begin Sept. 5.

    Assistant State Attorneys Karen Fraivillig and Art Jackman, and defense attorneys John Lakin and Ronald Kurpiers, must now choose 12 jurors and two alternates to sit on the jury.

    The trial will likely begin Wednesday and is expected to last for two weeks.

    Prospective jurors were questioned in two different sessions Monday, with attorneys deciding after each session whether hardships and established opinions produced by jurors were enough to strike them from the roster.

    Many jurors raised their hands when asked if they had read or watched coverage of the Bybee case. Some said they already had preconceived notions of guilt and could not be impartial.

    Among the reasons jurors gave for being unable to render a fair verdict were being caretakers themselves for disabled relatives, “personal feelings,” and one said a family member was convicted of murder and died in his jail cell. The statements came after jurors were informed that the case could take up to two weeks. Some expressed worries over financial hardships.

    “I just could not do it,” said the female juror whose family member died in jail.

    Another female juror said she decided she could not be fair after hearing the charges in the case, which involves an elderly woman.

    A male juror said he is retired and takes care of his mother.

    “I bathe her, toileted her, and fed her,” the male juror said. “You don’t want me on that trial.”

    A juror in the afternoon session said she lost a lot of work during Hurricane Irma and is responsible for watching her grandchild.

    The hurricane hardship excuse was the most common reasoning for many jurors, besides vacations, seeking to be exempt from the trial. Judge Donald H. Mason of Charlotte County said that nearly every juror present will suffer a financial inconvenience. He said it jury duty was part of living in America.

    The attorneys released most of the jurors who cited hardships.

    Several jurors felt they could be fair, but made the judge aware of possible issues that could arise during the trial.

    “I wanted to let you know that my husband is a police officer,” a female juror said.

    Two additional jurors just wanted the court to know they worked with the elderly, but felt “presumption of innocence” was not a problem.

    Judge Mason and Fraivillig told the panel to be blunt with their answers.

    Fraivillig asked the potential jurists if they would participate in the selection process. When they did not reply, she asked again, sparking a “yes” response.

    “The most important thing for you to do is be candid with us,” Fraivillig said. “We are looking for jurors that have no preconceived notions or biases. We need you to be a blank slate.”

    Two jurors said they had family members in law enforcement — one said they could be fair, the other said they might be tempted to side with a law enforcement officer.

    A female juror said her uncle is a sheriff’s deputy being called as a witness. She said even if he was a plumber, she would trust her relative’s opinion.

    Long after the potential jurors were asked if they had conflicts, two men said that they might have issues with “the system.”

    “I have had dealings with State Attorney and sometimes I see how things go,” a male juror said. “Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t agree — because I am exposed to it, I’m probably not the best person.”

    Both sides agreed to strike one female juror who told the court, “If I’m not getting paid, I will have an attitude.”

    A male juror in the afternoon session asked whether he could make a fair judgement based on the charges he heard in the case said, “No, I can’t. I personally feel this guy is a low life.”

    Another female juror says she works at the Sheriff’s Office and has been subjected to “negative opinions” about Bybee.

    A male juror who said he was had to attend a paramedics test to become a firefighter was also excused. He received soft applause from the crowd when Judge Mason released him.

    Bybee, an 18-year employee of the Sheriff’s Office, was arrested Jan. 23 after a 79-year-old woman called the Sheriff’s Office for help on Oct. 21.

    Bybee, a patrol deputy, was sent to the call and took the woman to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where the former deputy prayed with her before he left, according to an investigation.

    About two months later, the woman reported that Bybee had inserted himself into her personal life and had become too controlling. She asked the Sheriff’s Office for help in severing the relationship with the deputy.

    Bybee was placed on administrative leave Jan. 9 and three days later, according to court documents, he went back to elderly woman’s home and attempted to kill her.

    The Sheriff’s Office terminated his employment on Jan. 31 after enough information was discovered through an internal affairs investigation to sustain allegations of conduct unbecoming and conformance with laws, on top of criminal charges.

    Bybee has been in custody at the Sarasota County Jail on a $380,120 bail.

    Jury selection is expected to last until at least Tuesday.

    Full Article & Source:
    Jury pool shrinks for attempted murder trial of former Sarasota deputy

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