Trials & Litigation

$100M suit: Hospital housed heiress for decades, hid her from legal dept., to get more of her money

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The legal battle isn’t over concerning the $300 million estate left by reclusive copper heiress Huguette Clark when she died in 2011 at age 104.

A lawsuit filed Thursday by New York City’s public administrator’s office on behalf of her estate seeks $100 million from Beth Israel Medical Center and Dr. Henry Singman. It contends that they allowed Clark to live at the hospital for 20 years until she died there, even though there was no medical need for hospitalization most of that time, in order to obtain millions of dollars in rent payments, fees and gifts, reports the Associated Press.

Clark gave over $30 million to the nurse who provided most of her care, $4 million to the hospital and $800,000 to Singman and his family, among some $40 million in gifts, the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court filing says. The public administrator’s office is overseeing the estate because the original administrators were removed for allegedly wasting assets, the New York Daily News reports.

The suit charges that the hospital and its staff violated state law and facility policies that say prohibited caregivers from accepting gifts and required the discharge of a patient who had no medical need for hospitalization. It also argues that Singman should have arranged for a psychiatric evaluation and possible treatment of any condition that made Clark reluctant to leave.

To avoid discharging the lucrative patient, Beth Israel “deliberately violated state law and internal protocols, falsified records, and hid Huguette’s existence from the hospital’s legal department and outside regulators,” the suit says, contending that employees were told to hide Clark’s 20,000-page file from regulators when they reviewed the facility to keep her presence there a secret.

The hospital’s lawyer declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press, but Singman’s lawyer, Harold L. Schwab, said the suit is “outrageous” and said the doctor followed Clark’s wishes. Beth Israel and Clark’s caregivers have insisted that she was mentally astute, albeit eccentric, and lived her life as she wanted to.

See also: (Aug. 2010): “Report: DA’s Office Is Probing Finances of Heiress, 104; Lawyer & Accountant Handle Her $500M Assets” (Nov. 2011): “Relatives of Heiress Huguette Clark Accuse Lawyer and Accountant of ‘Plundering’ Her Fortune” (May 2012): “Staff of Reclusive Heiress Coerced Her Out of $44M in Gifts, Executor Says” (Sept. 2013): “Court fight over reclusive heiress Huguette Clark’s $300 million estate ends”

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