Nathan H. Lichtenstein Earns Victory at Trial


Aronberg Goldgehn litigation partner Nathan H. Lichtenstein earned a victory at trial for the estate of an elderly woman who had been a victim of financial exploitation before her death.

The decedent was an elderly woman who became friends with another player at her bridge club. The friend convinced her to withdraw close to a million dollars from her bank, promising that he could help her achieve better financial returns elsewhere. She deposited the funds into a newly-opened joint bank account with the friend. Just a week later, the friend returned alone to the bank and withdrew half of the money which he then deposited into his own account at a different bank.

When the friend attempted a few weeks after that to withdraw the remaining funds, the bank froze the account and notified Adult Protective Services (APS). A police investigation ensued, and an order of protection was issued prohibiting the friend from any further contact with the decedent, and from spending any of the retained funds. The friend died several months later, having never returned the funds.

Shortly after the friend’s death, the decedent’s guardians filed a claim against the friend’s estate to recover the misappropriated money, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, lack of capacity, financial exploitation of an elderly person, and conversion.

Testimony at trial established that for several years prior, the decedent had exhibited cognitive impairments that prevented her from making informed and independent decisions regarding her finances. Her friend had occasionally helped her pay bills and attend to other tasks. Relatives stated that she would not have made the transaction in question had she not been influenced and persuaded by her friend. The judge found that no evidence was presented to prove that the money was intended to be a gift to the friend.

The judge agreed that the breach of fiduciary duty claim, as well as the other claims regarding lack of capacity, financial exploitation and conversion were met, handing our client a complete victory. The court issued an order requiring the friend’s estate to tender the entire amount of the misappropriated money to the decedent’s estate within 30 days.

Nathan H. Lichtenstein is Co-Chair of the firm's Business Litigation practice and Chair of the firm's Professional Responsibility Committee. He focuses his practice on complex commercial litigation, including probate and trust matters, breach of contract claims, fraud and consumer fraud actions, trademark and copyright infringement cases, shareholder derivative suits, federal tax litigation, employment matters and unfair competition claims.

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