How an elderly man found the means to fight theft and elder financial abuse by his family caretakers and set an example for others to follow.
In December of 1996, Raymond Mendenhall, age 93 (who was potentially suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease) and his wife Deseret were invited to move in with his granddaughter and her husband (Cynthia and Kirk Munn) to receive care in their old age. These were the only relatives willing to provide the care that was needed. Cynthia (“Cindy”) Munn was a former bookkeeper who was working as a Chino Valley Municipal Court Clerk; Kirk Munn worked in auto repair and had a gambling problem. The plan was for the Mendenhall’s assets to be used to expand the Munn residence to create quarters for Mr. and Mrs. Mendenhall to reside in. At first, the arrangement seemed to be respectful and mutually helpful, but soon after the death of Deseret, just months after moving in, the situation turned sour.
Before long, over $700,000 in life savings (all that Ray Mendenhall owned) was reduced to only about $100,000. Money from bank accounts in which Cindy Munn was a co-signer with her grandfather had drifted from Ray’s accounts into construction projects for the Munn’s Chino Valley home, a new auto oil change business for Kirk, mortgages, college funds, travel expenses and more. While Mr. Mendenhall had authorized some purchases to show his appreciation for being allowed to live in the Munn’s home, a majority of the purchases were unauthorized and beyond all justification. In addition, a large store of Ray’s cash (about $70,000) disappeared around the time Kirk Munn took a sudden trip to Las Vegas. To combat the reckless misuse of the funds, which were the fiduciary responsibility of the Munns to use for Ray’s best interests, Ray Mendenhall sought out help from Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C.
Mr. Mendenhall’s case of elder abuse was incredibly complicated, involving a scrutinous review of 9 bank accounts over the course of 3 years. To add to the financial abuse, there were allegations of physical abuse inflicted by Kurt Munn on Mr. Mendenhall. It would not be long before the press caught wind of the importance of this elder abuse case in the Quad City community. The case soon had a very public 14-day jury trial, in which Chris Jensen and Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. began to gradually establish Mr. Mendenhall’s case of Elder Abuse step-by-step.
Over months after filing suit, Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. was collecting deposition testimony, bank records, and other evidence. Kirk and Cindy Munn claimed the missing money was “gifts”, except for a small portion that were “loans,” but Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. had begun to untangle the complex spider-web of facts from the defense’s fictions and unsubstantiated claims.
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At trial, Munns claimed they owed almost nothing, and asserted that Ray Mendenhall’s memory was totally unreliable. It became clear to the jury from the incremental evidence that both financial and emotional abuse had, in fact, occurred repeatedly to Mr. Mendenhall while he was in the care of the Munns. Although this shocking abuse had occurred to Mr. Mendenhall at such a vulnerable time in his life, he would receive the justice he deserved.
Overall, the jury had accepted the facts and abuse that Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. had established. Mr. Mendenhall received an award of $400,000 in recovery from the Munns for the many breaches of their fiduciary duty, plus an order for an additional $160,000 in legal fees, for a total of $560,000. Most importantly, Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C. recovered the means for Raymond Mendenhall to regain a comfortable, abuse-free lifestyle in his final years.
Click here to see the Mendenhall v. Munns case in the news.
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