A family torn by suspicions

Posners: With $20 million at stake, dark tales of greed, overmedication and manipulation unfold in court case.

April 12, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

By all accounts, Rose Posner was feisty, intelligent and well read. The wife of a wealthy developer, she taught school, was a competitive runner, loved art and raised three children before she died in 1996 at the age of 87.

Now her children are fighting in court over a decision she made in the last months of her life - leaving most of her $20 million estate to her son and giving her daughters only $100 each.

Dr. David Posner, chief of gastroenterology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says his mother's will reflected her anger at her daughters for seeking a court-appointed guardian and trying to imprison her in a nursing home two years before her death.

But the daughters, Judith Geduldig and Dr. Carol Jean Posner Gordon, sued in 1998, saying their brother turned their mother against them and lied to persuade her to write them out of her 12th and final will.

Kurt L. Fischer, the daughters' lawyer, told Baltimore County Circuit Court jurors in opening statements yesterday that David Posner also conspired with his lawyer to cheat the daughters out of their rightful inheritance.

"This case is a sad one, and a disturbing one," Fischer said. "It's the story of a family torn apart."

He said when Rose Posner became ill with emphysema and pneumonia while in Florida in 1993, Gordon, a psychiatrist, had her flown to Philadelphia and arranged for her to be treated by Rose Posner's brother, Dr. Laurence T. Browne, an internist.

Gordon and Browne subsequently had her admitted to a Pennsylvania nursing home, where she spent five months. But the move to Philadelphia angered David Posner, who accused his sister and uncle of deliberately overmedicating his mother to take control of her money.

Peter Keith, the son's lawyer, told jurors yesterday that David Posner was intent on carrying out the wishes of his mother, who was the widow of Nathan Posner, a lawyer and real estate developer who died in 1975.

He said that Rose Posner spoke to her oldest daughter, Geduldig, once in 19 years after a falling out over financial matters. The daughters also sought a court order to have Rose Posner declared incompetent, but failed, he said.

"At the end of her life, Rose Posner felt that they were not worthy to be her heirs," Keith said.

Rose Posner also was angry with Gordon because she stole Chinese artwork and a prized photograph of Gordon at her medical school graduation from her Lutherville home while she was in the nursing home, he said.

Keith said that Rose Posner had to sue to get the photograph back and that she came to the courthouse in a wheelchair when the case came to trial.

"They fought with her during her lifetime, and now that she's dead they're still fighting her," Keith told jurors.

Keith said that David Posner was worried about his mother when he had her transferred May 31, 1994, to Mercy Medical Center from the Philadelphia nursing home.

After the transfer, David Posner discovered that she was being overly medicated, taking anti-anxiety medications at levels that exceeded manufacturer's recommended dosages, Keith said.

"There [are] whopping medications being given to Rose Posner while she is in the nursing home," Keith told jurors.

Jurors yesterday viewed abbreviated versions of a series of videotapes that showed Rose Posner in 1994 and 1995 dictating terms of her will to her lawyer, Mark Willen.

"It distresses me when my children dicker with me like this, and they think they know what I want," Posner says on the tape of a May 31, 1994, interview.

Fischer told jurors to watch the four tapes carefully and argued that they show David Posner used Willen to "orchestrate" the writing of his mother's will.

He said that Gordon took the photo and the artwork for safekeeping because the roof in her mother's home was leaking. He called allegations that Gordon overmedicated her mother "unbelievably mean-spirited."

Fischer said evidence shows that Willen, who was also David Posner's lawyer, conspired with Posner to take control of his mother's finances.

"This case will present questions of serious misconduct on the part of two professionals, a doctor and a lawyer," Fischer said.

Keith denied that. "Everything that Mr. Willen did was aboveboard and proper," he said.

The case, being heard before Judge Lawrence R. Daniels is expected to run three weeks, with dozens of exhibits and witnesses to be presented by each side.

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