Friday, August 4, 2017
The Uniform Law Commissioners recently approved the new guardianship act. The prior act, the Uniform Guardianship & Protective Proceedings Act was approved in 1997. The new act, the Uniform Guardian, Conservatorship & Other Protective Arrangements Act was approved in mid-July at the ULC's 126th annual meeting. Terminology has changed with this new act, with the use of incapacitated person falling by the wayside. Instead, the act refers to "adult subject to guardianship" or adult subject to conservatorship" both of which are defined in Section 102. Less restrictive alternative now includes supported decision-making, along with other alternatives such as a health care or financial power of attorney or representative payee. More emphasis is put on protective arrangements (Article 5 of the Act) as an alternative to guardianship. Another version of the new act with a prefatory note and commentary will be available on the ULC website soon.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Clark County, Nevada has been at the center of serious allegations of abuse by court-appointed guardians, including "public" guardians, as we have reported here in the past. Most recently, the county was the site of a conviction and sentencing of a woman who was charged with theft from her "long-time companion," the incapacitated person she was appointed to protect.
Helen Natko was found guilty by a Las Vegas jury in April of theft and exploitation of a vulnerable person:
Natko raised suspicions when she transferred nearly $200,000 out of a joint account. Natko returned the money but that's when Del's daughter, Terri Black, tried to protect her father leading to a guardianship case.
"That began our 4 year odyssey of pain and sorrow that continues to this day for my family," says Terri. She says the most painful part was not having quality time with her father in his final days.
Although the prosecutor (and the protected person's family members) sought "prison time" following the conviction, ultimately the state court judge sentenced Natko to 5 years probation, a $10,000 fine and a bar on "gambling." Further, according to Las Vegas Contact 13 KTNV news reports, "she's disqualified to be a guardian under new laws passed" since the channel's investigation and news series exposed problems in the county's guardianship system.
For more see Contact 13: Guardian Sentenced to Probation. My thanks for the update from Rick Black, the son-in-law of the victim in this case. It's been a long haul for the family. Mr. Black commented, "We are satisfied with the [July 31, 2017] sentence. Although we wanted prison time, it wasn't in the statutes. Thanks to the many victim family members and advocates who came to support Terri [Rick's wife]."
Mr. Black is a volunteer with Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship (AAAPG), which was founded in Florida in 2013 by Sam J Sugar, M.D., in response to his own experiences in the Miami-Dade probate court.
My thanks to those who wrote to correct my earlier mistake in describing the history of AAAPG.
August 2, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, July 27, 2017
The inheritance system is beset by formalism. Probate courts reject wills on technicalities and refuse to correct obvious drafting mistakes by testators. These doctrines lead to donative errors, or outcomes that are not in line with the decedent’s donative intent. While scholars and reformers have critiqued the intent-defeating effects of formalism in the past, none have examined the resulting distribution of donative errors and connected it to broader social and economic inequalities. Drawing on egalitarian theories of distributive justice, this Article develops a novel critique of formalism in the inheritance law context. The central normative claim is that formalistic wills doctrines should be reformed because they create unjustified inequalities in the distribution of donative errors. In other words, probate formalism harms those who attempt to engage in estate planning without specialized legal knowledge or the economic resources to hire an attorney. By highlighting these distributive concerns, this Article reorients inheritance law scholarship to the needs of the middle class and crystallizes distributive arguments for reformers of the probate system.
When I teach Wills, Trusts & Estates, I always include a few of the latest news articles or case reports that focus on LegalZoom or other, less high-profile on-line document drafting venues that are used directly by consumers. Alex's article examines the implications of formalism for this important reality. Thanks, Alex!
Friday, July 21, 2017
In the latest chapter of an ongoing dispute between a specialized care facility, Melmark, Inc., and the older parents of a disabled adult son, Pennsylvania's intermediate Superior Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the parents.
The July 19, 2017 appellate decision in Melmark v. Schutt is based on choice of law principles, analyzing whether New Jersey's more limited filial support law or Pennsylvania's broader filial law controlled. If applied, New Jersey law "would shield the [parents] from financial responsibility for [their son's] care because they are over age 55 and Alex is no longer a minor." By contrast, "Pennsylvania's filial support law...would provide no age-based exception to parental responsibility to pay for care rendered to an indigent adult child."
The parents and the son were all, as stipulated to the court, residents of New Jersey. New Jersey public funding paid from the son's specialized care needs at Melmark's Pennsylvania facility for some 11 years. However, when, as part of a "bring our children home" program, New Jersey cut the funding for cross-border placements, the parents, age 70 and 71 year old, opposed return of their 31-year old son, arguing lack of an appropriate placement. Eventually Melmark returned their son to New Jersey against the parents' wishes, with an outstanding bill for unpaid care totaling more than $205,000, incurred over his final 14 months at Melmark.
Both the Pennsylvania trial and appellate courts ruled against the facility, concluding that "the New Jersey statutory scheme reflects a legislative purpose to protect its elderly parents from financial liability associated with the provision of care for their public assistance-eligible indigent children under the present circumstances." The courts rejected application of Pennsylvania's law as controlling.
This is a tough case, with hard-line positions on the law staked out by both sides. One cannot expect facilities to provide quality care for free. On the other side, one can empathize with families who face limited local care choices and huge costs.
Ultimately, I anticipate these kinds of cross-border "family care and cost" disputes becoming more common in the future for care-dependent family members, as the impact of federal funding cuts trickle down to states with uneven resources of their own. Some of these problems won't see the courtroom, as facilities will likely resist any out-of-state placement where payment is not guaranteed by family members, old or young.
July 21, 2017 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, July 20, 2017
In early July, the Governor of Hawai'i signed into law the Kupuna Caregivers Act, According to a story about the law, Hawaii Passes Law to Ease Responsibility of Elder Care, the law "provides qualified caregivers with a voucher of up to $70 per day that can be used toward services that they would otherwise perform themselves, including adult day care and assisted transportation." The first law of its type in the U.S. rather than benefitting the recipient of care, the law benefits the caregivers: by paying "working family caregivers, who can be caring for family members who are above the Medicaid eligibility threshold. While the amount provided does not cover the entire cost of care families need, it does allow them to provide more hours of in-home care and other services...." The text of the law is available here.
Monday, July 10, 2017
The ABA Commission on Law & Aging and the Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology have released a report, Restoration of Rights in Adult Guardianship: Research & Recommendations. The report is divided into four parts: (1) introduction & background, (2) research on restoration of rights, (3) discussion & recommendations on key issues to restoration, and (4) conclusion. The report runs 69 pages and is available for download as a pdf. Section 3 covers a number of topics, including lack of knowledge of the availability of restoration, review by courts re: continuing need for guardianship, court access, attorney representation (and the attorney's role), the guardian's role, supports available to the person, evidence and evidentiary standards, and data and research. Here is the conclusion
The time is ripe for restoration of rights to be become a viable option for people subject to guardianship. In the context of the emergent paradigm of supported decision-making, restoration can be a path to self-determination and choice. For courts, attention to restoration can weed out unnecessary cases from dockets, allowing a stronger focus on problems needing judicial intervention, and saving administrative costs of carrying unnecessary cases.
To make restoration work:
• State legislation must ensure sufficient notice that the option exists, provide for regular court review of the continuing need for guardianship, afford the right to counsel, and set workable evidentiary standards.
• Courts must assess cases for possible restoration, find ways to make individuals and families more aware of the option, make the process more accessible, take into account available supports in making determinations, and track data on restoration.
• Guardians must perceive their role as enhancing self-determination and working toward termination of guardianship with sufficient support – more as "supporters" guided by the person’s expressed wishes if possible. There must be sufficient legal decision-making tools, family supports, technological supports, and community supports readily available to bolster functional abilities.
• Lawyers must recognize and act on the potential of restoration in guardianship cases.
This study has set the stage for such actions, bringing to life the possibility that guardianship is not automatically an end but can be "a way station and not a final destination."
July 10, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 19, 2017
The Denver Post reported recently that the Denver DA and the Denver Police are taking steps to combat elder and vulnerable adult abuse. Denver DA, police form units to protect elderly, developmentally disabled explains that the DA has created a division within the office on elder abuse. As well the Chief of Denver PD has established a special victims unit for elders and vulnerable adults who are victims of abuse. The DA's division "will focus on physical abuse and neglect crimes against at-risk adults aged 70 or older, as well as adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities ... [as well as] prosecute financial fraud cases that target at-risk adults." The PD unit will work together with DA investigators and social workers to investigate reports.
Colorado uses age 70 for victims of elder abuse, and the law includes mandatory reporting. The law seems to be having a positive effect, based on the statistics in the article: "the number of Denver police investigations related to at-risk adults climbed adults climbed 271 percent from 228 to 847 cases between 2013 and 2016, according to department statistics. Elder abuse cases make up the bulk of the cases. Police investigated 735 elder abuse cases in 2016, a 418 percent increase above the 142 cases investigated in 2013."
Sunday, June 4, 2017
The New York Times ran an article giving an update on California's aid-in-dying law. The numbers are not from state officials but come from Compassion in Choices. They report "at least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016... [representing] ... those who have contacted Compassion & Choices...." The article notes that once the state publishes the required data there will be a more accurate picture of the law's application. The article also references the number of facilities that have written policies on recognizing the prescriptions. The article also reminds us that a lawsuit had been filed some time back to challenge the law, with a hearing scheduled for June 16, 2017.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
As I reported here for the first time recently, Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf has proposed consolidation -- or as he prefers to call it -- unification -- of four separate administrative agencies, the Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug & Alcohol Treatment Programs. Are similar budget-driven changes occurring in your state?
As I catch up with events in Pennsylvania, I'm learning from readers about growing concerns about the possible merger.
- As one recently retired PA legislator pointed out, there seems to be little in the way of a written plan for how services will be handled under this merger. Rather, the merger appears mostly as a description of budget items, with a lot of "minus" signs to indicate cuts. Perhaps by design, Pennsylvania government is often a bad example of transparency for governments. What is the real plan, if any?
- With the consolidation, at a minimum, older Pennsylvanians would be losing a cabinet level post, their singular, dedicated spokesperson. This would be likely to affect all future budget and programming battles.
- The timing is, to use a favorite Trump adjective, "sad." While the leading edge of the big wave of aging baby boomers began to be felt a few years ago when those born in in 1945 started turning age 65 in 2010, the "real" need for an effective advocate is when boomers start turning age 75, age 80 and so on, the higher ages when they are more likely to need or question access to services.
Perhaps of greatest significance is the potential impact of consolidation on the process for assessment of need for services and assistance, especially Medical Assistance.
Under the current allocation of resources, "assessment" of need is handled by individuals employed under the authority of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.
However, the financial allocations are currently determined under the authority of the Department of Human Services. Consolidation might make sense on paper, but wait!
As one of my mentors in aging, Northern Ireland's former Commissioner of Older People Claire Keatinge, says, to be helpful, fair and effective, any individual assessment of need for health care, social care and security, should be exactly that -- individualized and focused on the client, and should not be simply a match to "what services (if any) are available." That process-based distinction is critical to determining current and future funding priorities.
In Pennsylvania, the lion's share of budget and personnel for aging services has long been housed in the Department of Human Services (formerly Public Welfare), but those workers -- perhaps by necessity and perhaps by design, have often functioned as dedicated bean counters, as in "here's what services we fund, so do you or don't you meet the eligibility criteria?"
By losing the aging assessment focus of the current Department of Aging, it seems likely the state would compromise, and perhaps lose entirely, the independent thinking and opportunity for critical needs-based assessment.
Several elder-focused organizations have raised these and other key points in opposition to the existing budget-based consolidation proposal. Those active in the debate include:
- The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA) has asked thoughtful legislators to "oppose such consolidation" as presented in the current budget proposal. As Pittsburgh Elder Law attorney Julian Gray testified on May 1 in state Senate hearings, a "bigger" agency is not necessarily a "better" agency.
- Representatives for the service organization for Pennsylvania senior service workers, P4A, testified strongly in favor of the role of the Department of Aging as the advocate for the "unique needs of seniors." Speakers focused too on the Department's historical role in protecting and managing a unique funding stream dedicated to seniors, "lottery" funds.
- Long-time practitioner and elder law guru, Jeff Marshall, has a comprehensive commentary, with links, detailing the history and importance of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging. There's a simple bottom line expressed here -- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
- Related articles
Monday, May 22, 2017
In what is described as a "first" for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the organization through its New York Chapter will present argument on behalf of individuals seeking to establish access to "aid in dying." On April 27, the New York Chapter was granted leave to appear as amicus curiae in Myers v. Schneiderman before the New York Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled in Albany on May 30, 2017.
At issue is New York's penal law prohibiting assistance in "suicides." The original suit, filed in February 2015, sought a ruling that the statute, characterized by opponents as "antiquated," should be interpreted as not reaching the conduct of a physician that provides aid-in-dying where the patient is terminally ill and mentally competent and voluntarily seeks "terminal medication." Alternatively, the opponents of the law argue that the statute violates the rights of privacy and/or equal protection guaranteed by the New York State Constitution. New York's trial level court dismissed the challenge as a matter of law, on the grounds that New York's penal law was "clear on its face."
In joining the challenge to the dismissal, which was affirmed by appellate division, New York NAELA wrote:
As an organization of lawyers who represent the elderly and persons with disabilities, the New York Chapter [of NAELA] believes that a proper interpretation of New York's "assisted suicide" laws and due consideration of Appellants' constitutional challenges should be based on a fully developed factual record. These are issues of great moment to the elderly and those who love them and to the administration of justice in this State. This Court should have the benefit of a hearing and findings of relevant evidence before deciding them. . . .
What would assist this Court in fairly construing the Penal Law are facts relating to aid-in-dying. While the language of the statute is the starting point for interpretation, its words do not exist in a vacuum.
For more on the arguments, including links to the various parties' appellate briefs in Myers, see the "End of Life Liberty Project."
May 22, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Pennsylvania Governor Pushes State Merger of Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services and Drug & Alcohol
I'm on a crash course of "catching up" now that I am back in Pennsylvania, having been away on sabbatical for the last academic year and living (mostly) in Arizona. On May 9 I participated in a "Day on the Hill" event in Harrisburg, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association in Pennsylvania.
To kick off the afternoon sessions, Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne, along with Deputy Secretary of Health Corey Coleman, spoke in support of Pennsylvania Governor Wolf's plan to merge operations of four separate state departments, that of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug and Alcohol Programs into a single department called Department of Health and Human Services. The timeline for this decision is looming, as the Pennsylvania Legislature's budget session is scheduled to end on June 30.
Secretary Osborne pointed out that overlapping programs between the different departments complicate the ability of the state to serve related interests. For example, "protective services" are administered by separate units for children, disabled adults, and older adults. While acknowledging cost savings from consolidation is certainly one goal -- as the state is in an on-going budget crisis -- Secretary Osborne expressed her strong support for a clearer organizational chart, as a way to clarify and meet the needs of Pennsylvanians on common issues.
The Alzheimer's Association is not taking a position on the consolidation, instead focusing on the state's accountability and continued or enhanced dedication to serving impaired Pennsylvanians and their families, especially caregiver family members.
For more on Pennsylvania Tom Wolf's budget plan as it affects seniors, see the PA website on the Budget Documents. And as anyone knows who follows Pennsylvania legislative sessions, the real language and details are likely to emerge in the wee hours of the session, following a lot of horse-trading.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
The New York Times ran a story a few days ago about preventing financial exploitation. Declaring War on Financial Abuse of Older People starts with the story of a woman who acts when she finds out her grandmother had lost her life savings. (Just fyi, her grandmother's case was featured in a story in the New York Times in 2015). The woman didn't stop with just her grandmother's case, however. First she pushed to get action for her grandmother. Then, the story explains, she "[became] an activist, traveling around her home state of Washington to lecture and testify about the financial exploitation of older Americans. She has also become a lobbyist, exhorting state lawmakers to pass legislation that would toughen penalties for people who take financial advantage of vulnerable older people like her grandmother."
The article notes the variations among state financial exploitation statutes and how some states don't have specific elder financial exploitation statutes
A number of states have laws like this on the books, but they vary widely. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks such laws, this type of financial abuse is an active topic in state capitals. Last year, 33 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, considered measures against the illegal or improper use of seniors’ money, property or assets, in addition to fraud or identity theft targeting the older people.
Some states have shored up their existing laws. Last year, Idaho revised its definition of neglect of vulnerable adults to include exploitation. Illinois extended the statute of limitations to seven years from three for prosecuting a person accused of taking financial advantage of an older person or a person with disabilities.
Also, last year, Alabama passed the Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act, to add a layer of protection to existing laws by requiring brokers and investment advisers who believe a vulnerable adult is being exploited to notify the Human Resources Department and the Alabama Securities Commission.
In those states without the specific statutes, convictions come with lesser penalties than those with specific elder financial exploitation statutes. "Stiffer penalties are necessary to combat a growing drain on the savings of those 60 and over, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse, a federal clearinghouse. In 2015, in Washington state alone, there were nearly 8,000 complaints to adult protective services about financial exploitation, a more than 70 percent increase over 2010. And such crimes are likely to climb simply because the retiree population is growing."
The article also discusses efforts at the federal level, including the Elder Justice Act and the efforts of the Department of Justice.
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for bringing the article to our attention. Congratulations to Naomi and her co-author Amy Ziettlow on the publication of their book, Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
We all know that financial exploitation is a serious and significant problem in the U.S. I was interested in this article from Investment News detailing efforts that the financial services industry and others are taking to help their elder clients protect themselves from financial exploitation. Advisers taking steps to protect elderly explains although "[t]here's widespread acceptance in the financial services industry that elderly financial abuse is a growing problem, but there's no universally accepted game plan for how to respond... Many times firms' internal procedures will involve adviser education and training, and gathering third-party contact information for accounts." The article highlights the efforts of Wells Fargo Advisors which the article explains: "Wells Fargo launched an 11-member team more than two years ago within its compliance department that serves as an internal clearinghouse and case manager when advisers see a potential problem with a client. ... The unit has taken about 4,000 reports from the field, about half of which were incidences of abuse. Wells' Elder Care Initiatives often involves state adult protective services or securities regulators in the matters.:
Bank of America Merrill Lynch has also launched efforts to help protect their elder clients, according to the article. For example, one step Merrill Lynch has taken is to have "created a contact authorization form that gives advisers a trusted person to reach out to in case of suspected fraud or to obtain more information about behavioral changes linked to possible exploitation."
The article also highlights the efforts of Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, Edward Jones, and Fidelity Investments. As for smaller firms, they aren't lagging behind. For example, "[s]maller firms also are responding to the elder-abuse threat. For more than a year, Romano Wealth Management has had in place steps that its nine advisers follow in reporting potential abuse to the compliance officer, who then decides whether to involve adult protective services or regulators."
The article also discusses the efforts at the federal level. "The industry is starting to get protection from regulators. In February, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. rule designed to curb elder abuse. It requires brokers to make “reasonable efforts” to identify a “trusted contact” for investment accounts. It also permits them to prevent the disbursement of funds from the account and to notify the contact if the broker suspects the client is an abuse victim." The article also mentions several states that have passed laws that require investment advisors to notify APS as well as state regulators if financial exploitation is suspected.
The article discusses some other efforts and provides a good picture of various efforts taking place both by legislation and industry efforts.
April 6, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Paula Span, the thoughtful columnist on aging issues from the New York Times, offers "Gorsuch Staunchly Opposes "Aid-in-Dying." Does It Matter?" The article suggests that the "real" battle over aid-in-dying will be in state courts, not the Supreme Court.
I'm in the middle of reading Judge Gorsuch's 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. There are many things to say about this book, not the least of which is the impressive display of the Judge's careful sorting of facts, legal history and legal theory to analyze the various advocacy approaches to end-of-life decisions, with or without the assistance of third-parties.
With respect to what might reach the Supreme Court Court, he writes (at page 220 of the paperback edition):
The [Supreme Court's] preference for state legislative experimentation in Gonzales [v. Oregon] seems, at the end of the day, to leave the state of the assisted suicide debate more or less where the Court found it, with the states free to resolve the question for themselves. Even so, it raises interesting questions for at least two future sorts of cases one might expect to emerge in the not-too-distant future. The first sort of cases are "as applied" challenges asserting a constitutional right to assist suicide or euthanasia limited to some particular group, such as the terminally ill or perhaps those suffering grave physical (or maybe even psychological) pain....
The second sort of cases involve those like Lee v. Oregon..., asserting that laws allowing assisted suicide violate the equal protection guarantee...."
While most of the book is a meticulous analysis of law and policy, in the end he also seems to signal a personal concern, writing "Is it possible that the Journal of Clinical Oncology study is right and the impulse for assistance in suicide, like the impulse for old-fashioned suicide, might more often than not be the result of an often readily treatable condition?"
My thanks to New York attorney, now Florida resident, Karen Miller for pointing us to the NYT article.
February 28, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Religion, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, February 24, 2017
Washington State Discusses Expansion of Limited License Legal Technicians to Estate & Health Care Law
In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court approved Admission to Practice Rule 28, which created a new program for authorization of "limited license legal technicians," also known as LLLTs or "Triple L-Ts." The express purpose of the program was to meet the legal needs of under-served members of the public with qualified, affordable legal professionals, and the first area of practice chosen was domestic relations. With that first experience in hand, in January 2017, the Washington State Bar Association has formally proposed expansion of the LLLT program to enable service to clients on "estate and health law."
As described in the Washington State Bar Association materials, this expansion will include "aspects of estate planning, probate, guardianship, health care law, and government benefits. LLLTs licensed to practice in this area will be able to provide a wide range of services to those grappling with issues that disproportionately affect seniors but also touch people of all ages who are disabled, planning ahead for major life changes, or dealing with the death of a relative." The comment period is now open on the proposed expansion.
For more about this important innovation, there was an excellent 90 minute-long webinar hosted by the Washington Bar in February 2017, with members of the Limited License Legal Technician Board explaining the ethical rules (including mandatory malpractice insurance), three years of education and 3000 hours of experience required for LLLTs to qualify. Now available as a recording, the comments from the Webinar audience, including lawyers concerned about the potential impact on their own practice areas, are especially interesting.
Many thanks to modern practice-trends guru, Professor Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law, for helping us to keep abreast of the Washington state innovation.
February 24, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, February 23, 2017
North Carolina Appeals Ct Declines to Recognize Pre-Death Cause of Action for Tortious Interference with Expectancy
An interesting decision addressing standing issues arising in the context of a family battle over an 87-year old parent's assets was issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on February 21, 2017. In Hauser v Hauser, the court nicely summarizes its own ruling (with my highlighting below):
This appeal presents the issues of whether (1) North Carolina law recognizes a cause of action for tortious interference with an expected inheritance by a potential beneficiary during the lifetime of the testator; and (2) in cases where a living parent has grounds to bring claims for constructive fraud or breach of fiduciary duty such claims may be brought instead by a child of the parent based upon her anticipated loss of an expected inheritance. [Daughter] Teresa Kay Hauser (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the trial court's 3 March 2016 order granting the motion to dismiss of [Son] Darrell S. Hauser and [Son's Wife] Robin E. Whitaker Hauser (collectively “Defendants”) as to her claims for tortious interference with an expected inheritance, constructive fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty as well as her request for an accounting. Because Plaintiff's claims for relief are not legally viable in light of the facts she has alleged, we affirm the trial court's order.
The succinct North Carolina opinion, declines to follow the logic of Harmon v. Harmon, a 1979 decision from the Maine Supreme Court, that addressed the "frontier of the expanding field" on torious interfence of with an advantageous relationship, by recognizing a "pre-death" cause of action.
Currently the North Carolina opinion is available on Westlaw at 2017 WL 672176; I'll update this post with a open access link if it becomes available.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The deeply disturbing medical practice history of Christopher Duntsch, who worked as a neurosurgeon in Texas until 2013, culminated in his February 2017 conviction and sentence of life in prison for his injuries to a 74-year old patient. It is relatively rare for medical "malpractice" cases to lead to criminal charges, but as detailed in news articles covering the trial, there was strong, adverse medical testimony about how Duntsch's improper surgical procedures caused a horrific outcome.
Initially accusing Duntsch of criminal acts arising in the context of surgical procedures to several of his patients, the prosecution ultimately focused the criminal trial on his 2012 spinal surgery on a single patient under Texas Penal Code Section 22.04, for "Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual." The pertinent portion of the statute provides:
"(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, by act . . . causes to a . . . elderly individual . . . : (1) serious bodily injury."
The offense becomes a first degree felony, if it is proven that the conduct was "committed intentionally or knowingly." If the conduct had been "only" reckless, the offense would be a felony of the second degree.
Under the statute, an "elderly individual" is defined as a "person 65 year of age or older."
In a Washington Post article on the conviction, a Texas attorney is quoted:
“I cannot recall a physician being indicted for aggravated assault for acts committed during surgery,” Toby Shook, a Dallas defense attorney who spent 23 years working as a Dallas County prosecutor, told the magazine. “And not just Dallas County — I don’t recall hearing about it anywhere.”
As we had blogged previously, D.C. city council had passed an aid-in-dying law that was signed by the mayor. Congress had 30 days to overturn it and as we also blogged previously, that at least one Congressman attempted to overturn it. The 30 days expired last week, and the law became effective on February 18, 2017. Washington, D.C., now seventh place in U.S. to officially legalize assisted suicide explains that this means that "D.C. became the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize assisted suicide on Saturday, as the Republican-controlled Congress failed to block the law." Although there was a resolution from the House Oversight Committee, the resolution wasn't voted on by the House, so the law became effective.
Monday, February 20, 2017
George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn recommended an interesting new article from the Elder Law Journal, "The Precarious Status of Domestic Partnerships for the Elderly in a Post-Obergefell World."
Authors Heidi Brady, who is clerking for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson from the University of Illinois College of Law, team to analyze key ways in which elderly couples in domestic partnerships may be treated differently, and sometimes more adversely, than same sex couples who are married. From the abstract:
Three states face a particularly thorny question post-Obergefell [v. Hodges, the Supreme Court's 2015 decision recognizing rights to marry]: what should be done with domestic partnerships made available to elderly same-sex and straight couples at a time when same-sex couples could not marry. This article examines why California, New Jersey, and Washington opened domestic partnerships to elderly couples. . . . This Article drills down on three specific obligations and benefits tied to marriage -- receipt of alimony, Social Security spousal benefits, and duties to support a partner who needs long-term care under the Medicaid program -- and shows that entering a domestic partnership rather than marrying does not benefit all elderly couples; rather, the value of avoiding marriage varies by wealth and benefit.
Thank you, Naomi, for this recommendation.
February 20, 2017 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
We reported previously that DC had passed an aid-in-dying bill but that there were those in Congress who expressed an intent to overturn it. But it's not just the DC scenario that has advocates concerned. Kaiser Health News ran an article, Aid-In-Dying Advocates, Disheartened By Supreme Court Pick, Brace For New Fight. The article, part of KHN's morning briefing, summaries articles from other publications about Judge Gorsuch's book and his position on aid-in-dying. Click here to access those articles.
While we're on the subject, also check out this article from KHN on Aid-in-Dying Laws Don’t Guarantee That Patients Can Choose To Die, discussing patient access in those states with aid-in-dying laws (we'd previously discussed this in an article from the Denver Post).