Spillane and Co-Counsel Win 11-1 Defense Verdict in $14 Million Elder Abuse Case

Jay Spillane, representing Intervenor Plaintiff Tommie Howard, together with Robert Levinson and Helen Kim Colindres, representing Defendant Meighan Howard, won a defense verdict on an 11-1 vote after a five-week elder abuse jury trial.

Dr. John Howard, represented by Keller Anderle, sued Meighan Howard, his daughter, claiming that a 2012 amended estate plan, which disinherited Meighan Howard’s brother and made valuable irrevocable gifts to Meighan, was procured through elder abuse, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud.  Dr. Howard pointed to evidence that Meighan Howard primarily communicated with estate counsel, exerted a high degree of management over her parents’ affairs and was the beneficiary of highly valuable gifts.  Dr. Howard told the jury that his losses totaled nearly $14 million.

Dr. Howard did not name his wife, Tommie Howard, in his pleadings.  Tommie Howard, originally represented by Levinson and Kim Colindres, obtained the right to intervene in the case, to defend her daughter’s actions and to assert that the contested estate plan did in fact reflect her intentions as well as those of Dr. Howard.

As trial approached, Levinson and Kim Colindres asked Spillane to appear for Tommie Howard and represent her at trial.

A hard-fought five-week jury trial was conducted before Hon. Ralph C. Hofer in the Glendale branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  Jury selection lasted three days.  Judge Hofer permitted each side to present thirty hours of testimony.  Mrs. Howard, at times visibly emotional, testified credibly that she and Dr. Howard had discussed the estate plan changes and the gifts to Meighan, that she and Dr. Howard had received drafts of the amended plan documents from estate counsel, that the face pages of the documents showed the intent to disinherit their son and give gifts to Meighan and that Dr. Howard expressed satisfaction with the documents.

After two days of deliberation, the jury found for Meighan Howard on all three counts.  A poll of the jury revealed that the defense verdict came on an 11-1 vote.

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