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Court rules gynecologist can’t testify on mental competency

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A bank is able to foreclose on a mortgage against the estate of a deceased 95-year-old woman who opened the line of credit to pay her granddaughter to take care of her. But the elderly woman’s daughter argued the granddaughter unduly influenced Mildred Borgwald to open the account.

Borgwald insisted on remaining on her own in her home despite failing health and limited sight. Raelynn Pound, Borgwald’s granddaughter, agreed to take care of her grandmother around the clock for $650 per week. The two went to Old National Bank to open an equity line of credit against her home in the amount of $36,000. Nearly a third of this was paid to Pound within a week of opening; $650 was paid out weekly from November 2007 through June 2008. Borgwald died in August 2008.

Her daughter, Lana McGee – who is also Pound’s mother – opened Borgwald’s estate. The bank filed a claim for $36,274.54, seeking to foreclose on the home’s mortgage. The estate filed a petition to recover assets from Pound and asserted fraud and undue influence.

After holding a bench trial, the court found Borgwald had the mental capacity to enter into the contract with the bank and was not unduly influenced by Pound. ONB was entitled to have the mortgage foreclosed as a valid and paramount lien on Borgwald’s property.

The estate appealed, arguing its proffered expert witness Dr. Robert Lalouche should have been included. But Lalouche, a gynecologist, had never treated Borgwald and formed his opinions only based on the medical records submitted by the estate.

“Although Dr. Lalouche relies in his report on the conclusions by Mildred’s treating psychiatrist and internist, he does not profess an independent competency in neurological diseases or age-related mental deficiencies and his conclusion with respect of Mildred’s ability to comprehend the mortgage process is of no assistance to the trier of fact,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote in In the Matter of the Supervised Estate of Mildred Borgwald, Deceased v. Old National Bank and Raelynn Pound, 84A01-1302-ES-80.

The judges found the estate was not denied the opportunity to make an offer of proof and the trial court properly excluded references to expert opinions and medical diagnosis because the estate sought to admit Borgwald’s medical records through the testimony of McGee. But McGee is a lay witness and not a medical expert under Evidence Rule 702.

Finally, the Court of Appeals declined to find the line of credit was invalid because the bank customer service representative’s notary did not read every single word of the document to Borgwald, as required under I.C. 33-42-2-2(4).  But the estate never called the notary as a witness, and the judges pointed out that a mortgage does not need to be notarized in order to be enforceable in Indiana.

“Even assuming that the mortgage was not read to Mildred and that Mildred could be characterized as being blind and not merely ‘having trouble seeing,’ the validity of the mortgage would not be affected, only the notary’s signature. Therefore, we decline the Estate’s invitation to invalidate the mortgage,” Riley wrote.

 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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