WV Civil Rights Lawyer

Police Misconduct, Civil Rights Law

Monroe County Jury Verdict in Elder Financial Abuse Case

Last week I tried a four day jury trial in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, West Virginia, for a 98 year old lady named Isadora Beavers. On July 23, 2013, she walked into my office in her black and white polka dot dress, and hat, and demanded to see me. She told me that she had a power of attorney whom she suspected was stealing from her. She told me that her power of attorney was also the Vice President of her bank, and that she had been unable to get copies of her bank statements. That same day I helped her revoke the power of attorney and, at her request, demanded copies of ten years of her bank records from her bank.

Shortly afterwards she fell and was admitted into the hospital. I visited her in the hospital and told her what I had found in the past few years of her bank records – primarily lots of “cash” checks. I asked her if she spent much cash. She told me no, that she grew up in the Great Depression era and was thrifty with her money. She did admit that she indulged in getting a fancy haircut every once and awhile. And she liked to eat at Shoney’s. I told her that a deed existed giving her power of attorney joint ownership of all of her real estate, with a right of survivorship. She said, no, that property was supposed to go to her family after her death.

Not long after she began to decline pretty quickly. She started to suffer from dementia. Family members arrived in the area and petitioned the court to become her guardians and conservators, which was granted. They later contacted me and asked me to get the real estate back so they could finance the best possible medical care for Isadora. We demanded the return of the real estate. The response from the ex-power of attorney was that she would deed the property back, but wanted a release from liability in exchange for it. Not surprisingly, this offended pretty much all of Isadora’s relatives, and they gave me the go-ahead to sue her.

Last week, we presented the overwhelming evidence to the jury. They returned with a plaintiffs’ verdict on all counts: fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion and unjust enrichment. They awarded $326,771.06 in damages against the defendant, Betty B. Brown. That included $175,000.00 of punitive damages.

In my closing argument, I asked the jury to send a message that financial abuse of the elderly will not be tolerated. I believe they sent that message loud and clear.  By the way, all money collected is going to Isadora to fund her medical care and expenses.  The defendant is going to be reasonable for paying all of our attorney fees and expenses as well.

Media Reports:

Former bank exec is liable in elder abuse suit

Jury awards $325K to elderly victim of financial abuse

State woman to pay $325,000 in elder abuse case

In the courtroom with some of Isadora Beavers’ nieces and nephews immediately following the verdict:

IMG_4623 copy

December 19, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liability, Corruption, Embezzlement, Financial Abuse of Elderly, Fraud, John H. Bryan, Juries, Lawsuits, Lawyers, Media Coverage, Trials | Leave a comment

New Summary of the Sawyer v. Asbury Opinion

I just went back through the Sawyer v. Asbury opinion in this post on the Use of Force Source.  If you have followed the case on this blog, it’s interesting to take a step back and analyze the Court’s ruling as it finds its place in Fourth Circuit excessive force case law.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Judges, Juries, Lawsuits, Lawyers, Police, Police Misconduct, Trials | Leave a comment

Homeowner related shooting case

On the Use of Force Source, I just posted my write-up on a fairly recent Fourth Circuit case involving a homeowner who was shot by police while investigating a disturbance outside his home.  If you’re interested:

George Cooper, Sr. v. James Sheehan, et al.

I also recently posted a write-up on another recent Fourth Circuit opinion involving excessive force and bystander liability (e.g., where a group of officers allegedly beat someone and the victim doesn’t know who did what):

Marquis L. Stevenson v. City of Seat Pleasant, Maryland.

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Lawsuits, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

Matthew Cole federal lawsuit settled

For those of you who like to follow cases and not just read headlines about the allegations, I wanted to provide an update on the Matthew Cole case.  It was recently settled, having just been finalized yesterday.  It was originally filed in December 13, 2012.  That is about average from filing to settlement/trial.  It was scheduled to go to trial on March 13, 2014.

All discovery had been completed, including many depositions.  And all dispositive motions, and pretrial motions, had been briefed.  So anyone thinking that these are quick and easy cases to settle would be mistaken.  Most of these cases (and this one was certainly no exception) are hard-fought and highly contested.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

Media Reports From The “Sadler” Excessive Force Lawsuit

On the filing of the lawsuit:

WV Record

News and Sentinel

WTAP

Charleston Gazette / AP

Prior to the filing of the lawsuit:

News and Sentinel

Charleston Gazette

WTAP

November 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Media Coverage, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

I’m Back: Another Excessive Force 1983 Lawsuit Filed in Parkersburg, West Virginia

Well, I said I didn’t think I would be returning to Parkersburg.  But wouldn’t you know it, I’m headed back over there.  Here is yet another federal lawsuit filed by myself, and my co-counsel Paul Morrison, for yet another videotaped use of force out of Parkersburg, West Virginia.  This is my fourth time there.  This one was already in the news a few times.  With the closure of the federal courthouse in Parkersburg, this case will be litigated out of the federal courthouse in Charleston.  Maybe had we filed it a couple of days earlier . . . .

View this document on Scribd

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Lawyers, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

Media Coverage of Pumphrey v. Harrison County Commission, et al.

WV Record:

Man says Harrison County Deputies broke orbital bones, ribs

Charleston Gazette:

Clarksburg man alleges police brutality from 2011 arrest

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Lawyers, Media Coverage, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

New Federal Excessive Force Lawsuit Filed in the Northern District of West Virginia

View this document on Scribd

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

Seabolt Case Settled

We settled the Seabolt v. Vensel, et al. case late last week.  The settlement amount was $135,000.00.

Media Reports:

Charleston Gazette on Saturday:

Man to get $135,000 over alleged battery by Parkersburg officer

“I first became involved with civil rights issues in Parkersburg in June of 2010,” Bryan said after the settlement was reached. “With this settlement, I sincerely believe that these issues will not be coming up again. We’ve been through three years of federal court litigation, three six-figure settlements, two jury trials and two trips to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I’ve interacted with local leaders, police officers, citizens, local lawyers and Charleston defense lawyers, and I believe everyone is on the same page regarding Parkersburg’s future — which means that my time in Parkersburg has probably come to an end.

“Joshua Vensel is a good person who made one mistake. I uncovered no evidence of any prior acts of excessive force by him. In the end, he did right by Mr. Seabolt, and I have no doubt he will go on to lead a successful life. Lastly, I want to thank my co-counsel Michele Rusen and my opposing counsel Jim Muldoon for being great lawyers who are not afraid to do the right thing,” he said.

Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

$135k settlement reached in brutality lawsuit

WTAP:

Seabolt Settles in Lawsuit Against Parkersburg (also includes video of the incident)

WV Record:

Parkersburg Man Settles Excessive Force Suit for $135K

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Lawyers, Media Coverage, Police, Police Misconduct | Leave a comment

Sawyer Case Media Reports

There was a nice article on the front page of the Charleston Gazette this morning about the Sawyer Case.

Ruling Against Wood Deputy in Assault Stands

“Today the citizens of West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia North Carolina and South Carolina have more constitutional protections than they did yesterday,” John Bryan, Sawyer’s attorney, wrote in a statement.

“As a result of today’s ruling, which affirmed the District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, law enforcement officers will be taught to treat people differently, and that if they fail to do so, there will be consequences. Because of Brian Sawyer, and the federal court system, millions of people have more freedom. And that is something I am very proud of.”

There was also an article in the Parkersburg newspaper:

Asbury Judgment Upheld on Appeal

Well, off to another trial this morning.

ETA:  We won the property dispute trial.  We have been very blessed to have streak of wins in WV state-law easement disputes.  Although they might seem boring, they are quickly becoming one of my favorite types of cases, second only to civil rights cases.  I do enjoy interesting criminal cases.  However, I do not enjoy the stress of gambling with someone’s liberty.  I much rather prefer property rights or money.  The worse case scenario is never the end-of-the-world.

Also an article in the WV Record:

Fourth Circuit Affirms Goodwin’s Ruling in Wood County Civil Rights Case

August 14, 2013 Posted by | Appeals, Civil Liability, Excessive Force, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Judges, Lawsuits, Lawyers, Media Coverage, Police, Police Misconduct, Trials | Leave a comment