Donald K. was adjudicated disabled and the Public Guardian became his guardian in autumn of 1998. At that time, Donald was a hearing-impaired man in his late 50’s with a second grade education, and life-long medical problems. The Public Guardian petitioned for guardianship because Donald was financially exploited by a tenant in a building owned by Donald’s mother. The Public Guardian’s Office was already guardian of Donald’s mother.
Prior to guardianship, Donald was not participating in any activities. Aside from his mother, he had no close living relatives or friends. His father had abused him and his mother.
Once appointed guardian, the Public Guardian’s case manager introduced Donald to Anixter Center, an agency that provides various training and social programs to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities. Donald participated in vocational and social programs and enjoyed them immensely. Through Anixter, Donald visited Disney World and traveled in an airplane for the first time in his life. Donald spent ten years at Anixter Center and established many friendships with both staff and other participants.
Donald’s mother was able to return home to live with him when her health improved. The family had little money and to maintain them in the community, the Public Guardian’s Benefits Department applied for governmental benefits based on their eligibility. The Property Department expended significant time to repair and maintain the aging home. The Public Guardian’s Office placed other disabled individuals in the home to share living expenses. Donald and his mother were able to live in the community with a caregiver until she passed away at age 89.
Donald moved into an assisted living facility and then a nursing home when his health declined. His house was sold and a special needs payback trust was created so that he could qualify for Medicaid. The trust funds were used to supplement his care. Although Donald was on oxygen support, he remained socially active and participated in various activities in both facilities. He even continued to attend Anixter Center from time to time.
Donald passed away in June 2009 at the age of 68. Many friends from Anixter, staff and residents of the nursing home, and Public Guardian staff attended his funeral. He will be remembered for his sweet disposition and courage.
Estate of Hoellen v. Owsley.
When Theodore Hoellen was elderly and suffering from dementia, he was “befriended” by Chicago Police Officer Donald Owsley. Owsley proceed to exploit Mr. Hoellen out of his entire estate. Owsley had Mr. Hoellen sign documents naming Owsley as the beneficiary of his pension benefits, savings accounts, and house in a land trust. After a lengthy trial, the court voided these transactions and awarded Mr. Hoellen $50,000.00 in punitive damages. Owsley appealed, and the First District Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s order.
Roshawn is developmentally delayed. When Roshawn was crossing the street in the crosswalk with a green traffic light, a semi-truck drove over her body. The truck was making an illegal turn on a red light. Roshawn required numerous surgeries and now has disfiguring scars and walks with a limp.
After the accident, Roshawn’s mother, who was not her legal guardian, retained an attorney to sue the truck company. The lawyer reached a settlement with the trucking company for an inadequate amount of money to fairly compensate Roshawn for her extensive injuries. The lawyer then turned over the settlement proceeds to Roshawn’s mother, who squandered the money on herself.
The Public Guardian sued the attorney and the trucking company to obtain fair compensation for Roshawn. After reaching a settlement, one of the parties backed out. The Public Guardian then demanded an increased monetary sum, and the other parties successfully moved the trial court to enforce the earlier settlement. The Public Guardian appealed this order, and was successful in winning a reversal. The Public Guardian subsequently reached a settlement for a substantially larger sum of money to benefit Roshawn.
Mary suffered from chronic schizophrenia for most of her adult life. As a result of her disability, she did not pay a property tax bill of $347.00. She lost her home of 20 years in a forced tax lien sale because of the unpaid tax. The Public Guardian sued to recover Mary’s home, but the trial court affirmed the tax sale. After appeals to the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts, the Public Guardian successfully appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which vacated the tax lien sale and remanded the case for further proceedings in the state appellate courts. On remand, the Illinois Supreme Court reaffirmed the tax sale. Although Mary did not recover her home, the case sparked legislative efforts to address the problem of disabled persons who lose their valuable homes over small unpaid property taxes. For a law journal article about the case see R. Harris, C. Golbert and B. Sullivan, “When Disabled Homeowners Lose Their Homes For a Pittance in Unpaid Property Taxes: Some Lessons From In re Mary L., 5 NAELA J. 2, p. 159 (2009).