Philadelphia Bar Reporter – May 2014
Volunteering For Those Who Served
Daniel E. Rhynhart And Rosemary McKenna
Daniel E. Rhynhart
The legal problems facing Pennsylvania’s seniors today – homelessness, elder abuse, and financial exploitation, among others – are serious and prevalent. We are exposed to instances of these problems daily: news stories and segments concerning elderly individuals who are defrauded or taken advantage of by unscrupulous “friends,” contractors, businessmen, neighbors, and others. The number of seniors who are the victims of these types of abuse and fraud is vast and include elders who are alone, in poor mental or physical health, economically disadvantaged, or vulnerable to deception.
Indeed, many of our military veterans, who spent their lives fearlessly serving their country to provide a better life for themselves and their community, are among the seniors in the community that are the victims of these egregious acts. The types of legal problems experienced in the senior community can have devastating consequences on its victims and can lead to severe physical, emotional, mental, and financial distress and injury, property loss, fear, humiliation, and loss of life’s enjoyment.
We have been handling a case that was referred to our firm by SeniorLAW Center last year, representing an 88-year old World War II veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He was tricked by a younger man who lived in his neighborhood – who he believed to be his friend – into signing away the rights to his prized classic cars, a 1964 Bentley and a 1969 Cadillac. When that fraud proved successful, the “friend” then defrauded our client into selling his home in South Philadelphia, by telling him that the papers he was signing at a realtor’s office were not sale documents, but rather rental documents for a luxury apartment on Rittenhouse Square. While our client was at the closing, unknowingly signing papers to sell his home, movers were at his home throwing away and taking his personal property, including many of his life’s possessions. Our client found himself homeless, with no family to turn to, and suffered an emotional breakdown. After nights sleeping in his car, he was hospitalized at the VA Hospital. After the fraud that had been perpetrated upon our client, he had nothing left to pay legal counsel. Through SeniorLAW Center, we were able to connect with this senior citizen and provide him pro bono representation.
Working as volunteer attorneys in partnership with SeniorLAW Center allows us, as lawyers, to advocate on behalf of victimized seniors and serve them in order to prevent the types of harm and devastation that occur as a result of fraud and abuse. May is national Older Americans Month and an opportune time to join this important work that provides diverse opportunities throughout the year to serve those who built and served this country. We are proud to be working with SeniorLAW Center to further its important mission of improving the lives of older Pennsylvanians, protecting their rights, and promoting access to justice by ensuring that Pennsylvania elders can live in their homes and communities safely, with dignity, and free from abuse, fraud, and exploitation.
SeniorLAW Center’s 2014 Gala will honor older veterans on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at the historic Ballroom at the Ben. For more information on SeniorLAW Center and opportunities to volunteer, visit www.seniorlawcenter.org or contact Karen C. Buck, Esq., executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org 215. 701.3201.
Daniel E. Rhynhart and Rosemary McKenna are attorneys with Blank Rome LLP.