“To Kill A Mockingbird” Author Suffered Financial Elder Abuse

to-kill-a-mockingbirdIn Lawsuit Against Former Lit Agent, Famous Author Claims Financial Elder Abuse

Harper Lee, now 87 years old, is a celebrated author most famous for her literary classic court room drama “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is required reading for middle and high school students across the country. However, Lee recently filed a lawsuit against her former literary agent, alleging financial elder abuse.

The lawsuit states that, following a stroke in 2007, Lee’s former literary agent Samuel Pinkus used several tactics to trick her into surrendering her book royalties to him. The book sells about 750,000 copies a year and generates $1.5 million in royalties.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” the lawsuit states. Papers that Pinkus handed to Lee gave the agent control over “Mockingbird” copyright and royalties. Then, he allegedly moved the royalties through several shell accounts, to deceive financial records.

When threatened with legal action earlier this year, Pinkus signed an agreement that returned the rights of “Mockingbird” to its author. However, because of the financial elder abuse, Lee has also filed a suit for Pinkus to repay her the lost royalties.

Financial Elder Abuse and Exploitation

In addition to neglect and abuse, South Carolina’s Office of Aging recognizes a third risk that aging adults are exposed to: exploitation. The two most prevalent forms of elderly exploitation is financial abuse and medical fraud.

Many states define exploitation as the wrongful use of an older person’s resources for another person’s profit or advantage. State laws use various terms to denote the wrongful nature of the act, such as “illegal,” “improper,” “unjust,” and “without legal entitlement.” Some definitions refer simply to the misuse of the person’s funds, property or person. Some states specify that, to qualify as exploitation, the resources must have been obtained without the older person’s consent, or obtained through undue influence, duress, deception or false pretenses.

One type of exploitation is a breach of a fiduciary relationship, such as a guardianship or power of attorney, in which the older person’s property is misappropriated or resources are misused. A plaintiff who seeks to prove financial exploitation may need to rely on a different set of experts than those relied upon in matters of abuse and neglect. Rather than physicians and nurses, his or her attorney may retain accountants and computer experts to show the loss of resources and explain the transactions at issue.

In financial elder abuse, aging adults are taken advantage of by caregivers (related or unrelated). This can occur by home health care workers or at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Financial Exploitation includes:

  • theft and credit card fraud,
  • stealing identity,
  • using real estate for personal means, and
  • conning nursing home residents into purchasing a fraudulent service or product.

Financial exploitation might not endanger an older person’s health or safety, but it results in the loss of the person’s estate and self-esteem.

The Strom Law Firm Defends Senior Citizens Against Financial Elder Abuse

If you or a loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse or exploitation by your care facility, nursing home, caregiver, or a relative, contact us today.  Come in for a free consultation with one of our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers to discuss your situation and hear how we can help. 803.252.4800