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Can You File a Civil Lawsuit on Behalf of a Financially Exploited Relative?


If you suspect that someone–maybe even a relative–is financially exploiting a family member, it is understandable that you want to take some legal action to help. But you should always consult and work with an experienced Florida undue influence lawyer who can review the case and advise you if you have standing to prosecute a Claim on behalf of another person. Trying to go to court on your own is unlikely to do much good, especially if you do not have a solid understanding of what the law can actually accomplish.

Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Man’s Complaint Against Half-Brother Over Father’s Care

Consider this recent decision from a federal judge in Ocala, Florida. In this case, Augusta v. Paini, the plaintiff was a self-represented individual who filed a lawsuit against his half-brother (the defendant). The plaintiff asked the court for permission to proceed in forma pauperis, which means he does not have the financial resources to pay the necessary filing fees. In reviewing such a request, the judge must first decide whether the lawsuit itself is valid.

In his complaint, the plaintiff accused the defendant of financially exploiting their elderly mother. Specifically, he alleged the defendant “tricked” their mother into signing a power of attorney giving the defendant control of her financial affairs in exchange for his promise to care for the mother and her husband. Instead, the plaintiff claimed the defendant “incarcerated” their mother in a rehabilitation facility for three years and took off with her money.

The judge dismissed the complaint. He explained that the plaintiff alleged violations of both federal and Florida state law. Normally, you cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court unless there is a “federal question,” such as an alleged violation of a federal statute. (The plaintiff and defendant must also be residents of different states, which was not the case here.) In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged his half-brother’s actions violated the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which is a federal statute. The problem, the judge said, was that this statute “does not authorize private individuals to file civil lawsuits in federal court related to elder abuse.” Rather, this statute makes it possible for federal prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against suspected abusers.

This left only the plaintiff’s claim under state law, specifically Section 825.103 of the Florida Statutes. The judge said the plaintiff would have to re-file this claim in state court. But it is worth noting that Section 825.103 only permits civil actions by a vulnerable adult or their legal representative, such as a court-appointed guardian. A third party cannot proceed with such a claim except with the consent of the vulnerable adult.

Contact Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today

If you are looking to help a relative who might be the victim of financial or similar abuse, your best course of action is to speak with a qualified Pompano Beach power of attorney disputes lawyer. Contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.



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