Mother Files Civil Case Action Against Her Son For Elder Financial Abuse in Los Angeles County

Posted by Stephanie Sherman | Mar 10, 2022 | 0 Comments


A mother was forced to sue her only surviving family member for taking the life insurance proceeds from her husband's death and using the money for his own personal financial gain.  Sherman Law represents 85 year old, Jackie Howarth, against her son, Rick Howarth, in an elder abuse, conversion, and financial exploitation case filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court. 

Elderly people are at great risk of financial abuse, manipulation, and exploitation by persons in a position of trust and confidence to the elder such as caretakers and adult children. The elderly are especially vulnerable to financial fraud due to their advancing age, physical deterioration, lack of technology training, and declining mental capacity.  An elder who lives alone may not be able to protect herself from family members who do not have the elder's best interest in mind.  In such instances, greedy family members can easily take advantage of the elder by stealing money, diverting money to their own bank account, influencing investment decisions that benefit them more than the elder, influencing changes to wills and securities, and convincing the elder that she should share a joint bank account, which the family member then controls and siphons for their own personal gain.     

Jackie Howarth is an 85 year old widow that lost her husband of 55 years to cancer in 2011.  Jackie lives alone in Arizona without any other family support.  She and beloved husband moved to Arizona in 2011 to be closer to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center after her husband was diagnosed with end stage bladder cancer.  Jackie stayed in Arizona after her husband's death because it was too painful for her to return to California and face all the memories alone.  Over the next few years, Jackie lost the rest of her close family members including her mother, sister, aunt, and oldest son.  The only close family member remaining is her son Derick Howarth, who lives in Fontana, California where he and his wife Stephanie Howarth work for Bank of America.  

Before Jackie's husband died, he told their son to take the life insurance proceeds Jackie was to receive from his death and invest the money for her so that she would be financially secure until she died.  Their son was a Vice President of Bank of America with investing expertise and experience.  Jackie's husband had taken care of their investments for 55 years and he wanted to make she didn't have to worry about her future care. They both trusted their son to invest the money for Jackie.

After Jackie's husband died, Jackie gave Rick the insurance money and asked him to invest it for her.  She had just lost her husband of 55 years and was grieving.  Over the next few years, Jackie lost most of her closer family members and was unable to make investment decisions for her future care.  Jackie relied on her son, who had expertise and success in investments to do this for her.  She never had to worry about her care before and this was too overwhelming for her especially facing the future alone for the first time in her life.   

Rick Howarth accepted Jackie's money and immediately and with Jackie's knowledge bought 2 investment properties in Los Angeles County.  He collected rent on one of the properties and sold the other later to use the profits to purchase his home in Fontana, California.  Rick never told Jackie anything about these investments. He kept his mother at arm's length for the next ten years. 

Last year, Jackie learned for the first time that her son took her money in 2011 with the no intent to invest it for her as he promised.  When she asked about her money he told her it was his.  Jackie was shocked, upset, and terrified that everything her husband left for her was gone.  She was also worried because her son had financial and medical power of attorney over her.  She feared he could take her house too.  Jackie called the Adult Protective Services in Arizona, who immediately stepped in to help her get Rick off her power of attorney.  

Jackie's lawsuit in Los Angeles seeks the return of her money, property, and any profits made from investments of her money. Jackie has also suffered mental and emotional distress from the stress caused by the fraud, which her doctor has well documented. Her doctor also filed a report with Adult Protective Services.
In an elder abuse case, the elder is entitled to actual damages, medical expenses, mental and emotional distress, attorney's fees, costs of suit and also penalties depending on the state where the fraud occurred.  For example, the California Civil Code Section 3345 has increased remedies including treble damages, fines, and penalties for senior citizens and persons with disabilities in actions involve unfair or deceptive acts or practices .  Treble damages is a term that meaning the prevailing plaintiff may be awarded up to three times the actual or compensatory damages. Thankfully, the California elder abuse laws are very agressive to help protect our vulnerable elders.  

For additional resources and California laws protecting our elders, see the Office of the Attorney General of California.

A list of the California laws can be found here.

You can also report elder abuse to Adult Protective Services in the state where the fraud occurred.  They will do an investigation and file charges if appropriate.

If you or someone you love has been a victim of elder abuse, contact us. 


About the Author

Stephanie Sherman

On June 1, 2022, I joined the nationwide award-winning law firm, Baum Hedlund.  I am grateful to join this elite group of trailblazers that is so deeply committed to taking on tough cases and fighting for the underdog. You can still reach me here, via my bio page or at 800-827-0087. Stephani...


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