Monday, August 21, 2017

Federal Jury To Snoozing County Public Administrator: Your Negligence In Connection With Auction Of Dead Person's Home Screwed Estate Beneficiary Out Of $114K, So Pay Up!

In Nashville, Tennessee, the Nashville Post reports:
  • A federal jury on Wednesday [August 16] found in favor of the beneficiary of an estate overseen by the Davidson County Public Administrator.

    The beneficiary, Joan Wildasin, argued the public administrator, Peggy Mathes, was negligent in her handling of the auction of the estate’s main asset, a home on Old Charlotte Pike in Pegram, Tennessee. The trial was held in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

    The jury awarded Wildasin $114,167, approximately the amount of damages the plaintiff’s team claimed she had suffered when the administrator failed to correct an inaccurate description of the property prior to its 2014 sale at auction.

    According to the plaintiff, the home was advertised as 2,500 square feet ahead of the auction when it was actually more than 3,500 square feet.

    “Ms. Wildasin is very gratified that the jury sent such a strong message that public officials who owe a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries of estates must exercise diligence and caution discharging their duties, and will be held accountable when they fail to do so,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Gino Bulso, of Leader, Bulso & Nolan, said in a statement. “Mathes, despite having records in her file that accurately showed the square footage of the home, admitted during the trial that she provided no information to the auction company about the home (other than the address), that she never reviewed any of the advertisements for the auction sale of the sale, that she did nothing to ensure that the advertisements were accurate, and that — even after having been advised of the discrepancy prior to commencement of the auction — allowed the home to be sold anyway.”

    The house sold for $315,000 at auction, while the plaintiff cited appraisals putting the value of the home closer to $500,000.

    Mathes’ attorney, John Kitch of Cornelius & Collins, said they were still processing the verdict and declined to comment further.

    The defense had argued that Mathes was immune from the suit because of her role as Davidson County Public Administrator.

    Metro Legal Director Jon Cooper said he was not familiar with the case and could not comment.

    Additionally, Mathes claimed, it was the responsibility of the auction company, not her, to make sure the listing was accurate. Wildasin and the auction company, Colson Auctions, reached a confidential settlement prior to the trial.

    At-large Metro Councilmember Jim Shulman, who chairs the Rules, Confirmations and Public Elections Committee that recommended Mathes for reappointment in 2015, said he hasn’t heard of other issues with the public administrator in the last few years.

    “If there’d been a series of cases, I think we’d immediately call her in and figure out what was going on,” he said. “But if this is the first case like this, if this is the first official judgment on her for an act of negligence, we might want to know about it, but I’m not sure if the council will take a full review fit or not.”
Source: Jury awards $114K in botched estate sale (Davidson County Public Administrator had claimed immunity from suit).