Guardianship News:

Florida: Jury awards $16.4 Million against guardianship attorneys

US District Court - West Palm Beach, Florida US District Court - West Palm Beach, Florida

On Friday, July 28, 2017, a unanimous jury in the U. S. District Court, West Palm Beach Courthouse, awarded $16,400,000 to the Estate of Oliver Wilson Bivins, Sr., and against West Palm Beach guardianship attorneys, Brian O’Connell and Brian O’Connell of the Ciklin Lubitz & O’Connell law firm. The hotly contested two-week jury trial was handled by BBLF partners Ron Denman, Chuck Bavol and Grant Kindrick.
The jury found that attorneys Brian O’Connell and Ashley Crispin had breached both their professional and fiduciary duties to Oliver Wilson Bivins, Sr., an incapacitated ward of the State of Florida. The complaint against Brian O’Connell and Ashley Crispin and their law firm, Ciklin Lubitz & O’Connell, alleged that they engaged in actions that increased their own attorneys’ fees to the detriment of Mr. Bivins’ guardianship estate.

In the federal lawsuit filed by his son, Julian Bivins, in his capacity as personal representative of the Estate of Oliver Bivins, Sr., lawyers for the Estate argued during the trial that guardianship attorneys Brian O’Connell and Ashley Crispin, litigated to keep Mr. Bivins located in Florida and to prevent him from returning to his decades old home in Amarillo, Texas, in order to maintain control over the Florida guardianship so they could generate legal fees. Attorneys for the Estate argued that throughout the four-year guardianship, Brian O’Connell, Ashley Crispin and the Ciklin Lubitz & O’Connell law firm charged Mr. Bivins’ guardianship estate over $1,000,000 in legal fees while liquidating real estate assets at values detrimental to the estate and entered into self-serving agreements with third parties that failed to serve the best interests of the guardianship estate. During the guardianship, the court record reflects that Mr. O’Connell and Ms. Crispin also filed lawsuits against both of Oliver Wilson Bivins Sr.’s children and funded the litigation through the substantial assets of their incapacitated father.

The jury’s $16,400,000 verdict award against Brian O’Connell and Ashley Crispin, for actions taken in connection with the guardianship, presided over in the guardianship court by Judge Martin Colin, marks yet another entry into the intrigue surrounding professional guardians in the Palm Beach County Guardianship and Probate Courts. Based on this significant jury verdict and the ongoing investigative journalism in Southern Florida concerning professional guardianships, the need for reform of the guardianship system to protect Florida’s elderly citizens is again underscored.

After the verdict, the Estate’s lead counsel, Ron Denman, commented “through the jury verdict, it appears the people of south Florida demand accountability from the lawyers (and guardians) appointed by the legal system to represent the interests, and protect the assets, of its incapacitated citizens.”

Press Release from the
The Bleakley Bavol Law Firm
Tampa, FL

4 Comments on Florida: Jury awards $16.4 Million against guardianship attorneys

  1. Beverly Donias // July 31, 2017 at 7:01 pm //

    Its about time someone is being held accountable. These Guardians and Professionals have been getting away with this for at least 14 yrs+ that Im aware of. This is happening all over the U.S.A and other countries. Exploit the vulnarable, even cause their untimely death.

  2. Congrats to the Bivin’s Family! Landmark decision.

  3. John Pacenti, of the Palm Beach Post has published excellent investigative journalism on the allegedly
    corrupt antics of Florida Guardians who many seem to believe could only get away with these brazen schemes with the help of Judges. Several articles reference Judge David E French and his very close friend, now ( pressured into retirement? ) Ret. Judge Martin Colin and his wife Elizabeth Savitt.

    Jason Halle and and Mr. Bernstein also publish extensive blogs on the allegedly corrupt shenanigans going
    on in certain Palm Beach County Courtrooms.

    Glad to see the sewer start to be flushed. Its a huge and intimidating job to take on judicial corruption and judges. These Mr. Bivens’ Son and his Attorneys are to be commended. Its amazing how lawyers and Judges can collude to join forces and rob honest elderly people of their money under color of law and judicial “integrity”. Shameless behavior on their part.

    We must assume this case is simply the tiny tip of the iceberg. We hope that this self-policing profession will dig deep and clean up. Thank you.

    The above is published as personal opinion only.

  4. Grateful, that the Banks and Attorneys are becoming accountable. In 2001 I had to obtain an emergency guardianship for my 85 year old Aunt with memory loss. I was attacked and bullied by my family and finally ask Judge Lupo to assign a bank as guardian of her finances and I would remain guardian of her health. Sixteen years later, it cost my Aunt over 500K in legal fees to file the annual accounting, petition my $30.00 an hour fee and file the annual guardianship plan which I would prepare. The accounting also included my minimal purchases for her care and the ALF rent. Her accounts average balance was about $1.2 million and now $880K. Is 40% of the account a normal legal fee for a very basic with no issues financial guardianship by a bank? I’ve been told this was an abuse of power. Over the years no other attorney would stand up for me because they were all doing business with this prestigious Palm Beach Bank. BTY the bank was also receiving a fee of 20K a year. My aunt died in Jan 2017 at 2001 and I’m just now able to work full time. I created this slide share to tell my story, however, I would now like to tell the story of what seems to be financial abuse.

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