Brain-Damaged Woman At Center Of $5M Negligence Suit

, Daily Business Review

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Cristal M. McBean, a mentally and physically disabled 21-year-old with her father Glenford McBean at their Lauderhill home.
Cristal M. McBean, a mentally and physically disabled 21-year-old with her father Glenford McBean at their Lauderhill home.

The Northern Trust Co., a Chicago-based financial services giant, is fighting a $5 million lawsuit alleging it failed to properly manage the assets of a brain-damaged Broward County woman.

Cristal Marie McBean, now 21, of Lauderhill suffered a catastrophic accident shortly after birth in 1992 that caused oxygen deprivation to her brain. In 1995, her attorney secured a settlement with her health-care providers.

She was to receive $1 million in cash through a guardianship estate, plus payments through an annuity of more than $13,000 per month.

McBean is a quadriplegic with very little cognitive ability, her attorney said. She does not speak and cannot function on her own. Her father, with assistance from nurses, is her full-time caregiver.

In February 1996, Northern Trust was appointed her plenary guardian. Northern Trust, an investment management and fund administrator listed on the Nasdaq exchange, has been around for 124 years and has more than $846 billion in assets under management.

Northern Trust hardly seems like a firm that would botch the trust of a disabled client, but her attorneys claim that’s what happened.

Civil litigator Gary Fox of Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain in Miami became the latest of several attorneys to take her case. Elder law attorney Stephen A. Taylor of Biscayne Park was approached by McBean’s trial attorney, Gary M. Cohen of Grossman Roth in Boca Raton to look into how her guardian was spending money. 

Taylor said McBean’s father, Glenford McBean, “felt the guardianship was being grossly mismanaged and that his thoughts and opinions were not being heard. He feared the monies in the guardianship would soon be completely gone and he was concerned about the future care for his daughter.”

Taylor was stunned to learn a special needs trust was never established by Northern Trust as her guardian. Taylor educated McBean on the need for a trust, got the trust established in March 2011 and removed Northern Trust as guardian in August 2012. MonarchCare Inc., the petitioner in the current action, was named the new guardian in October 2012.

Fox was brought in to litigate a petition to surcharge Northern Trust, and a second amended petition was filed last October.

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