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Res Judicata Bars Financial Elder Abuse Claims On Court Approved Accountings

In 2003, Lawrence Dean (defendant, cross-complainant and respondent) was designated as the conservator over Blaine Knox's person and estate. Blaine's estate had principal assets consisting of two Redlands apartment buildings and a collection of classic cars and antique engines initially valued at approximately $1.5 million. Blaine also had cash of approximately $295,000.

Dean submitted a first and second accounting, seeking confirmation of his acts and transactions during the period. Notices of hearing on the accountings were sent to Donna Knox (Blaine Knox's daughter, successor conservator, plaintiff, cross-defendant and appellant). Donna did not file any objections to the first and second accounting. The probate court approved both accountings.

Dean filed a third accounting. This time, Donna filed an objection to the third accounting. However, after examining the bills and statements associated with the third accounting, the probate court approved it despite Donna's objections. Dean filed a fourth accounting and Donna again filed written objections. The probate court stayed proceedings on the fourth accounting until Donna's complaint for damages were resolved.

Donna filed a complaint against Dean alleging financial elder abuse, neglect, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and constructive fraud. Donna alleged that while Dean was acting as conservator, he engaged in financial self-dealing, neglected Blaine's physical needs, and created phantom services that drained Blaine's estate of all cash. Donna also alleged that Blaine suffers from vision and hearing impairments that made him susceptible to undue influence and prevented him from protecting his rights.

Dean filed a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication, contending that the matters encompassed in the first three accountings were res judicata since the probate courts had already approved them. Dean further argued that Donna failed to allege facts sufficient to support her causes of action. The trial court granted Dean's motion. Donna appealed.

Stay tuned for more on this topic on our subsequent blog.

*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.

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