–Disabled son deeded property built by his parents in 1948 to unscrupulous contractor–
LOS ANGELES, CA Friday, May 09, 2014 – The Los Angeles-based Law Offices of Joseph C. Girard and LA Elder Law, specializing in elder financial abuse legal matters, obtained a $23 million jury verdict on behalf of their clients Jeanne Haworth and Kathleen McGinty against a contractor who maliciously entered into an agreement to renovate a family home. He and his attorney manipulated the owner into deeding the property to raise funds for work that was never needed.
The jury found that the contractor, Noam Bouzaglou, acted with recklessness, oppression and malice toward the McGinty family, and awarded the trust $23 million in punitive damages for the contractor’s abusive conduct. The Court also returned the family home back to the trust. The jury also found that the attorney, Andrew Stern, acted in concert with the contractor, was professionally negligent and engaged in fraudulent conduct.
“We are gratified the jury agreed that this was an egregious breach in the defendants’ fiduciary responsibility toward our client,” said Joseph C. Girard, principal at The Law Offices of Joseph C. Girard and LA Elder Law. “The defendant took advantage of a depressed man and his disabled sister, and fraudulently obtained their home through undue influence. We know his mother would be tremendously relieved that her legacy was returned to the right hands.”
Following the death of his mother in 2009, Timothy McGinty was told by the City of Santa Monica that he needed to fix some issues with his garage. He embarked on a plan to renovate the family home and entered into a construction agreement with Mr. Bouzaglou. Mr. McGinty’s autistic older sister, Kathleen McGinty, had lived in the house all of her life and was supported by her brother.
The contractor convinced Mr. McGinty, who was also disabled and unemployed, to procure a $400,000 loan against the property to pay for the remodeling costs, the proceeds of which were then placed in the trust account of attorney, Andrew Stern. During the course of construction, Mr. McGinty was hospitalized for a mental condition; and when he returned home, he was told by Mr. Bouzaglou that more funds were needed for the remodel. Mr. Bouzaglou offered to obtain financing for Mr. McGinty if he would quitclaim the property over to him. The contract, drawn up by Attorney Stern, contained false, unsecured promises that Bouzaglou would pay him a portion of any profit upon sale of the property.
While the property was in escrow to be sold, Mr. McGinty unexpectedly died and his cousin, Jeanne Haworth, became the successor trustee. Ms. Haworth discovered that the deed to the family home named Mr. Bouzaglou as the record owner, and immediately recognized the questionable nature of the agreement. She enlisted the help of Mr. Girard who had served as her aunt’s estate planning attorney, and he immediately stopped the sale by filing a lawsuit against Bouzaglou for his disreputable conduct toward her cousins.
“This case is a prime example of how important trust administration is after a death. When Mr. McGinty died, he had not yet effectuated the special needs trust that his mother had established for his sister’s lifetime of care. Thankfully, the jury and the judge recognized the contractor’s misdeeds and the attorney’s fraud and professional negligence made the right decision in returning the home to the McGinty family,” said Mr. Girard.
LA Elder Law is an elder financial abuse law firm specializing in estate planning, probate, trust and probate litigation, conservatorships, Medi-Cal planning and special needs planning.
The Law Offices of Joseph C. Girard
4560 Admiralty Way, Suite 254
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292