Jury rules son is entitled to most of mother's estate

Daughters' claims rejected after weeks of courtroom drama

May 04, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury found yesterday that Dr. David Posner is entitled to the largest share of his mother's $20 million estate and that he didn't lie to persuade her to leave her two daughters $100 each.

The Circuit Court jurors listened to three weeks of blistering accusations before rejecting claims by Judith A. Geduldig and Dr. Carol Jean Posner Gordon that Posner unduly influenced their mother before she wrote her 12th and final will in 1996.

Posner hugged his wife, Nancy, and one of his lawyers, Mark Willen, after the verdict was announced.

Posner, who is chief of gastroenterology at Mercy Medical Center, credited the clarity of his mother's statements - shown to jurors in a series of videotaped wills - as a key to winning the case.

"Rose Posner is the real winner here because it means her wishes will be carried out," he said of his mother. "It shows that when you do what is right, you win."

Geduldig was not in court when the verdict was announced and did not return telephone calls.

Gordon said she wants to discuss the case with her lawyer before deciding whether to appeal.

"I know that I did the best for my mother and that she enjoyed her life because of what I did. But if the jury doesn't believe that he did what we said that he did, so be it," Gordon said. "I'll live."

The sisters alleged that Posner convinced their mother they were trying to overmedicate her and take control of her estate before she wrote her final will Jan. 3, 1996.

Rose Posner was admitted to a Pennsylvania nursing home in 1994 after Gordon arranged for her to move from Florida to Philadelphia, where she could be treated by her brother, Dr. Laurence T. Browne.

She spent five months there before David Posner had her transferred to Mercy.

Lawyers for the sisters argued that Rose Posner told a Pennsylvania judge before she left the nursing home in 1994 that she wanted to divide her money equally among her three children.

But Posner's lawyers argued that the sisters caused their mother to change her mind - filing suit to keep her in the nursing home and prescribing medications that clouded her mind.

Geduldig saw her mother once in 19 years. After Gordon took a picture from Rose Posner's home, the mother sued to get it back, according to testimony.

The sisters have filed three suits. In 1999, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge initially threw out the suit decided yesterday, ruling that there was insufficient evidence of fraud. But the daughters appealed and won the right to a jury trial a few months later.

A dispute over the tax liabilities is being reviewed by the Court of Special Appeals and a 1998 ruling ensures that the sisters will not walk away empty-handed.

A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled in that 1998 case that a $7 million trust that is part of the estate was beyond Rose Posner's control and must be split three ways. That decision ensures each of the three children about $2.33 million.

Posner said that because of that 1998 ruling, the amount in dispute in yesterday's case was reduced to the $3.5 million that his mother left to him and his children.

A large chunk of the estate - about $7.5 million - went to pay taxes, he said. His mother also left $2.5 million to various charities, he said.

"It isn't as much as it may sound like," Posner said. "Unlike people who win the lottery, I'll be going back to work tomorrow."

Posner's lawyers, Alan Silverberg and Peter Keith, agreed that the videotapes were key pieces of evidence in a case that included more than 20 witnesses and 420 exhibits.

"Basically, it was like Rose Posner was there in the courtroom testifying," Keith said.

Jurors said the videotapes helped. But they said they also were convinced, and saddened, by many of the facts of the case.

"Families have to learn to get together and be a family, no matter how much money's involved," said one juror. "The money isn't worth it."

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