Just when it seemed that the years-long New York estate battle related to the heiress Huguette Clark was over, another chapter develops. Last week the NY Daily News reported on a lawsuit filed by Clark’s estate against Beth Israel hospital over claims that administrators at the facility exploited the elder Clark for the institution’s own financial gain. This comes on the heels of a final settlement in Clark’s contested Will from 2005.
According to details released in the complaint, the Clark estate is seeking upwards of $100 million from the Beth Israel Medical Center which, the estate claims, was unlawfully taken from Clark by “secluding” the heiress in the hospital for decades in an effort to extract gifts from her (on top of charging rent).
The Public Administrator involved in the case does not mince words when describing accusations against the hospital. He claims that in order to keep Clark inside the facility it “deliberately violated state law and internal protocols, falsified records, and hid Huguette’s existence from the hospital’s legal department and outside regulators”
Clark left her Connecticut home in the early 1990s after facing cancer and malnourishment. It was then that she checked into Beth Israel for medical care. And she stayed at the location for the new two decades, even though she did not need intensive medical care. The lawsuit claims that hospital employees violated the senior’s trust by “isolating her from the world” and ignoring her psychiatric state.
This exploitation, the suit claims, was based in money. In her time at the hospital, the heiress allegedly spent tens of millions on hospital fees while giving away just as much in “gifts” to those at the facility. Clark’s primary physician alone received nearly $1 million in gifts for himself and his family.
If the allegations in this lawsuit are true, this represents a perfect example of how New York seniors can be exploited by virtually anyone. Even employees at respected hospitals can abuse their situation and position of power over vulnerable seniors for their own gain. This conduct is never acceptable. It is critical for friends and family members to step in whenever they have suspicions about neglect or exploitation.
Elder law and estate planning matters can very quickly devolve into bitter accusations and court battles. This is true even for those who do not have high value assets. To prevent conflict, seek out experience lawyers as soon as possible to put concrete legal plans in place to protect your own wishes and your family’s stability.