Couple charged with elder abuse in “undue influence” case

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that Daniel Lee Anderson and his wife Taryn Marie Anderson have been arrested and charged in a 84-count criminal indictment for abusing and defrauding Charles and Tammy Whitworth, a developmentally challenged couple. The court documents say that the Anderson’s physically and psychologically abused the couple, made them virtual “indentured servants” and defrauded them financially.

According to the report, Charles and Tammy Whitworth are described as “vulnerable, low-functioning adults.” Charles Whitworth worked for Chrysler Motors for 33 years old and the couple owned their own house and two automobiles even though Charles Whitworth was illiterate and low functioning. Court documents charge that the Andersons alienated the Whitworth’s from their family, took control of their financial assets and moved them to Portland, Oregon where the Whitworth’s basically served as maids.

The Andersons face a myriad of charges including theft, strangulation, criminal mistreatment, assault, harassment, coercion and criminal mischief.

What the Andersons did was take vulnerable people and manipulated them to control all of their assets and mistreated them. Dr. Bennett Blum, an Arizona-based forensic and geriatric psychiatrist calls cases like this “undue influence cases” and he said they occur all too frequently.

Undue influence is term which refers to one person taking advantage or power over another and the person loses their free will. People often use undue influence in order to take financial or sexual control over another. Undue influence can include cases of parents and children, guardians and their wards, doctor and a patient or, in this case, a predator over vulnerable adults that have diminished capacity. When undue influenced is proved, a contract can be set aside.

We frequently see “undue influence” in elder abuse cases. Sometimes an elderly person is pressured to “give a gift” to a person, sign a loan document or transfer property. The legal question that must be answered is, “Did this person understand what he or she was doing when he/she participated in the transaction?” In ruling on an “undue influence case” the court considers many factors including whether the elderly person was discouraged from seeking advice from their normal counsel (i.e., doctor, lawyer, family member, or cleric), whether the transaction took place in an appropriate setting and whether the person was influenced to make a decision without the time to ponder its implications.

If this has happened to you or a loved one, you need to contact an attorney with experience in elder abuse and neglect. The Farber Law Group has more than 30 years representing victims of elder abuse including abuse and neglect that takes place in nursing homes.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.