Not a Gay Time

07/30/2010

Late last week, representatives of Sonoma County, California settled a lawsuit filed on behalf Clay Greene and the estate of Harold Scull, Greene’s deceased partner of 20 years.  According to the suit, Greene and Scull had executed estate planning documents consisting of, among other things, wills, powers of attorney, medical directives and durable powers of attorney for health care.   Their documents named each other as beneficiary and decision maker in the event of a disability. 

In April 2008, county employees in the Public Guardian’s office separated the couple after Scull fell outside their shared home. In the next three months, County officials apparently ignored the couple’s legal documentation, unlawfully auctioned their possessions, terminated their lease, and forced Greene into an assisted living facility against his will. The county did not consult Greene in Scull’s medical care and prevented the two from seeing one another.

In August, 2008, before the partners could be reunited, Scull passed away (after completing a photo album of the couple’s life for Greene).

In August, 2009, Greene and the representative of Scull’s estate filed a lawsuit against county officials and others alleging elder abuse, elder financial abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and other claims. 

The case never went to trial, but rather the county settled the claims.  Under the terms of the settlement, Sonoma County agreed to pay approximately $600,000.  In addition, Sonoma County agreed to change its policies in its Public Guardian’s Office, including requiring county employees to follow protocols before seizing private property or relocating elders or others against their will.

It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to force Sonoma County to change its way of doing business.  It is also unfortunate that Scull and Greene were not allowed to see each other before Scull’s death.  Although I guess one can say they “won” by the county settling the lawsuit, the only remedy available was monetary damages.  Sometimes money is the only way to make someone whole.  So Greene’s bank account might be bigger, but his heart is probably empty.  A truly sad commentary.