Vol. 11, #13.2 – January 9th, 2019 – ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG
Eighth blog (extra) post of series on Elder Law for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc..
TODAY’S TOPIC: “Elder Abuse Behavior-Celebrity Examples: “It can happen to the rich and famous; and it can happen to the rest of us, even in the best of families!*”
Now that you have an idea what elder abuse means in theory, it might surprise you to know that some people think that it’s not much of a problem. Of course, they’re wrong. To these people, I say: “Yes, Virginia, elder abuse can be very problematic.” Indeed, elder abuse behavior can be hugely hurtful and also give rise to severe legal troubles. To prove my point, hereinafter are several big name cases that hit the headlines in the United States.
B. Groucho Marx
In the 1930s, Groucho Marx was an American comedian, writer, and actor. He was part of the vaudeville act known as the “Marx Brothers”, whose comedy was later featured in motion pictures. In the fifties through to 1961, he was the host of the television quiz show “You Bet Your Life”. In his later years, he was a frequent guest on television talk shows. He died in 1977 at age of 86. His net worth was then about $12 million.
However, his well-being was on the line when he in effect, bet his life by getting involved with a certain Erin Fleming, a former showgirl, who became his companion during the six years before his death. This led to court proceedings wherein it was alleged that while she was with Marx, she cheated and abused him. Indeed, she was “accused by the Bank of America, executor of Marx’s estate, of taking $400,000 from the estate by deceit.” One issue was the firing of Arthur Tucker, Marx’s accountant-business manager. According to Miss Fleming, she said that she did so, “because his combative relationship with Marx was causing the feeble actor stress.” And it was to “end years of arguing between the two.” However, Attorney J. Brin Schulman, the Bank of America attorney, read from a letter Tucker wrote to Marx in 1974, describing his firing as ‘the saddest day of my life.” There is something wrong,’ Tucker said in the letter, ‘and I can assure you there’s nothing wrong in this office.’ Indeed, “Schulman implied after reading Tucker’s letter that Miss Fleming fired Tucker to gain control of Marx’s finances.” The legal battle against Erin Fleming to wrest back control was eventually successful. Marx’s son, Arthur and his sisters were awarded the bulk of the estate, and Erin Fleming was ordered to repay $472,000. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groucho_Marx#cite_note-44 ; Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2011, Obituary of Arthur Marx; https://www.upi.com/Archives/1983/02/01/Erin-Fleming-accused-of-cheating-and-abusing-Groucho-Marx/2464412923600/ )
C. Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem was an actor, voice talent on a cartoon show, disc jockey who Counts Down 70’s & 80’s Hits. He was also an announcer- host on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. On June 15, 2014, Kasem died at the age of 82 in Gig Harbor, Washington. His net worth was about 80 million dollars.
However, in later life, some people called Kasem, a victim of elder abuse. Indeed, he had an awful time of it in the year before he died. You see, there was a major dispute relative to his care. On one hand, there was his then wife, Jean Thompson and on the other, were his daughter Kerri Kasem and her sister (from a prior marriage). They insisted on visiting Kasem in the nursing home where he was then residing; but there was push back from Thompson. Finally, on getting access, they found him “doing fairly well and in good spirits, despite his confusion, memory loss, and trouble speaking.” But then Kasem went missing. And Thompson also failed to attend a court hearing about Kasem ‘s care. It turned out that Thompson had secretly had Kasem moved. Given her father’s unexplained whereabouts, Kerri was granted legal authority (through a conservatorship) to make his medical and other decisions. Needing to locate her father, Kerri Kasem reached out to authorities, and Kasem was ultimately found with friends in the State of Washington. Thompson’s bizarre explanation was that it was a “vacation”.
Once he was hospitalized, Kasem was found to have “serious bed sores and infections in his lungs and bladder.” Due to these circumstances, it appeared that Kasem would not survive and instead of continuing efforts and striving to keep him alive (and suffering), Kerri Kasem gave permission for comfort care to be provided. The position of Kerri Kasem was more or less as follows: (a) That these conditions were preventable /treatable with proper care in a good nursing home. (b) That these maladies can potentially be fatal to someone of Kasem’s condition and advanced age (82). (c) That if Kasem had remained in the nursing home, the bed sores and infections could have been prevented, or at least, been properly treated on a timely basis, and this medical care might have resulted in a better outcome. (d) That as a result, Thompson’s acts and/or omissions were seen by the family as having caused the terminal condition. The foregoing was part of the reason that the legal saga didn’t end with the death of Kasem.
Next, a judge granted Kerri Kasem, a temporary restraining order to prevent Thompson from cremating the body and allow an autopsy to be performed. However, on delivering the order to the funeral home, Kerri Kasem was told that at the request of Thompson, the body had been moved out of the country to a funeral home in Canada. It’s noteworthy that it took Thompson, more than six months after the demise of Kasem, to have him buried in Oslo Norway.
Then, in November 2015, three of Kasem’s children and his brother sued his widow for wrongful death. The lawsuit charges Jean (Thompson) Kasem with elder abuse and inflicting emotional distress on the children by restricting access before his death. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_Kasem; Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/trialandheirs/2014/06/12/casey-kasem-teaches-lessons-on-end-of-life-planning-and-elder-abuse/#398f750e7a50 )
D. Stan Lee
Lee was a Marvel co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk and dozens other superheroes, who are icons of US comics that have been transferred, with great success to film. He was married for 69 years to Joan Clayton Boocock. On November 12, 2018, Lee died at the age of 95 in Los Angeles, California. As per a report published by the Hollywood Reporter in April 2018, there was a claim that Lee was a victim of elder abuse. As per the story, there was a certain Keya Morgan, a.k.a. Keyrash Mazhari, a New York-based memorabilia collector, who interposed himself into the life of Lee. It is noteworthy that Lee posted a video to Twitter describing Morgan as his “only partner and business manager.” Following the death of Lee’s wife on July 6, 2017, Morgan apparently tried to take over everything. In 2018, Lee’s daughter Joan Celia “CJ” Lee, age 68 brought suit against Morgan. Pursuant to court documents, Lee had an estate worth about $50 million. As per the original petition and supporting documents, it was alleged that Morgan seized control of Lee’s home and before moving him to a condo, he hired security guards with orders to keep away Lee’s trusted relatives and associates. In doing so, the petition alleged, Morgan was “unduly influencing” and “isolating” Lee. A restraining order was granted ordering Morgan to stay at least 100 yards away from Lee for the next three years. In addition, it ordered Morgan to stay away from “CJ” Lee, and his 86-year-old brother, Larry Lieber. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Lee; https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/18/marvel-comics-mogul-stan-lee-wins-renewed-protection-against-elder-abuse😉
These real life stories are sad, but true. They delineate the tragic circumstances that could arise when elder abuse behavior is inflicted. And they illustrate the legal quagmire, which might then ensue, when close family members fight to do right for their aged loved one. So BE on guard and STAY vigilant! *
F. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE BLOG SERIES: More On Elder Abuse
I believe that with this blog series, I may have got you thinking about elder abuse. And today, perhaps, I gave you even more to think about. Next, I plan to break the topic down into little bites, this to simplify your take-a-way. Want a quick read to tie things together? Interested? See you next time.*
G. NOTICE – CAUTION –DISCLAIMER
The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of or substitution for legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.
*©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED