Two sisters lose a round in battle over inheritance

Judge throws out their lawsuit seeking share of $20 million

May 07, 1999|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A judge ended yesterday the latest round of a bitter family feud over the $20 million estate of a Baltimore County woman when he threw out a suit brought by the woman's daughters, who claimed their brother turned their mother against them, causing her to leave each daughter only $100.

The brother, a Mercy Medical Center doctor, likely will inherit the bulk of his mother's estate.

The decision by Baltimore County Circuit Judge John O. Hennegan to dismiss the lawsuit by the daughters of the late Rose Posner against their brother, David B. Posner, canceled a three-week jury trial scheduled to start May 17.

Hennegan ruled yesterday that pretrial evidence -- including two unusual videotapes of the elderly woman signing her last will and being questioned by a psychiatrist -- showed no evidence of "any degree of coercion" or "fraudulent misrepresentations" by Dr. Posner that prompted his mother to disinherit her daughters.

"There is a plethora of undisputed evidence that [Rose Posner] was strong-willed, intelligent and sharp," wrote Hennegan in a four-page opinion.

He noted that one of the Rose Posner's daughters, psychiatrist Jean Posner Gordon of Baltimore County, stated in her deposition that "I don't believe anybody could get my mother to do something that she didn't want to do except by trickery."

A lawyer for the sisters said they intend to challenge the ruling. "We believe the judge's decision is incorrect, and we will file an appeal tomorrow," said attorney Brett Ingerman.

E. Pete Sommerfield, a lawyer for David Posner, said very little evidence supported the sisters' allegations. He said the videotapes, which the judge reviewed, showed "everything was what Rose wanted."

A former elementary school teacher and homemaker, Rose Posner lived in Lutherville and died Oct. 28, 1996, at age 87 from complications of emphysema. She was the widow of Baltimore lawyer and developer Nathan Posner, who died in 1975 and left her $2.4 million -- an amount that grew to $20 million.

The sisters, Gordon and Judith Ann Geduldig, had asked the court to nullify their mother's will and divide her fortune among the three siblings.

The battle over the estate was notable not only because of the disinheritance of Rose Posner's daughters, but because of the videotapes the elderly woman left of herself signing her 12th and final will.

In one tape, made by her lawyer in January 1996, Rose Posner talks about the weather, politics and the stock market, and reminisces about the Baltimore Colts before signing the final will.

In another tape, made two months later, she answers a psychiatrist's simple questions accurately, although she appears physically frail, breathing through an oxygen tube.

She also reveals her anger at one daughter in that tape when she refers to Gordon's alleged theft from her of a photograph showing the daughter with her late father at her medical school graduation.

"She gets the picture she stole from me," the elderly woman said on the videotape. The daughter has denied stealing the picture, saying it belonged to her.

In the suit, Rose Posner's daughters accused their younger brother of convincing their mother that the daughters were out for her money instead of looking out for her welfare.

Posner and his lawyers have said Rose Posner acted on her own and was angry at her daughters for seeking a court-appointed guardian and trying to "imprison" her in a nursing home two years before her death.

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