Smith v. McDaniel: Liability for suspicious transactions with elderly man
In Smith v. McDaniel, the Tyler Court of Appeals upheld a judgment against Thomas Smith for defrauding an elderly gentleman, Bruce Greer. The case was brought by a beneficiary of Greer's estate who claimed that Smith defrauded Greer in various transactions. According to the decision, Smith became close to Greer when Greer's wife became ill because Smith assisted Greer in dealing with the hardships of his wife's illness and subsequent death. Greer gave Smith increasing control over his assets, including portions of nearly one million dollars in payments made to Greer under an oil and gas lease on his land. Smith wrote checks from Greer's accounts totaling over $358,000.00, and Smith, his businesses, or his creditors were the beneficiaries of those funds. Greer signed all of the checks before he passed away. The trial court, in its judgment, found that Smith “obtained the amount of $358,481.10 from Greer by false pretenses, false representations, and actual fraud.” The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, holding that the circumstances provided sufficient evidence that the funds were obtained via a fraud worked on Greer. It is unfortunate, but not uncommon, to see the elderly with significant assets become prey to those that they trust. Sometimes it is a family member, sometimes a friend, and sometimes a stranger who works charm. Fortunately, Texas law provides some remedies, although collecting a judgment from the wrongdoer is always a concern.