Judge dismisses Mary Thompson estate lawsuit

Judge dismisses Mary Thompson estate lawsuit
March 03
00:00 2016

By Cash Michaels

For The Chronicle

A lawsuit alleging an estate guardian and the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office defrauded $1.4 million from the estate of a deceased retired nurse has been officially dismissed, The Chronicle has learned.

In a Feb. 29 court order issued by Forsyth Superior Court Judge John O. Craig III this week, based on a Feb. 19 hearing, the lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of Mary Ellen Thompson against attorney Bryan C. Thompson (no relation), who served as estate guardian upon appointment by the Forsyth Clerk’s office, was dismissed because “… the complaint fails to state a claim against defendant Thompson upon which relief can be granted and that the motion to dismiss therefore should be allowed …”

As The Chronicle first reported last October when the lawsuit was originally filed against the Forsyth Clerk’s Office, two insurance companies and several local attorneys, including attorney Thompson, it alleged that Thompson had someone in the Forsyth Clerk’s Office to “… sign a guardianship appointment in his favor on May 1, 2007 without giving notice to Mary Thompson and her next of kin as it is required …” by state statutes. The suit further claimed that  because evidence of incompetency was not initially presented, as legally required, attorney Thompson knew that his “… guardianship appointment in his favor was fictitious … [and] used it to fraudulently obtain possession and control over the assets of Mary Thompson in May of 2007.”

The N.C. Court of Appeals in February 2014 found that “… all of attorney Thompson’s actions regarding the estate of Mary Thompson …were without legal authority” because none of the orders issued by the Forsyth Clerk’s Office were properly file-stamped or legally entered into the court record.

The result, claimed plaintiff’s attorney Reginald D. Alston for the Mary Thompson estate, is that attorney Bryan Thompson allegedly squandered much of the assets and proceeds from Mary Thompson’s properties in a “… pattern and practice of fraudulent acts.”

But last December, in her 32-page answer, attorney Thompson’s lawyer, attorney Molly Whitlatch of Greensboro, countered that Thompson committed no wrongdoing, and further claimed that the lawsuit by Mary Thompson’s estate was full of “frivolous and baseless” allegations.

Whitlatch denied that attorney Thompson did anything improper or took any of Mary Thompson’s assets for his own use. “Plaintiff (then estate administrator Calvin Brannon) and his counsel knew or should have known that the assets were worth a fraction of [$1.4 million], and have made misleading allegations implying that defendants took such assets for their own benefit when in fact, the assets were used for the benefit of Mary Thompson.”

Whitlatch added that attorney Thompson “acted in good faith in carrying out duties under the Orders …,” effectively saying that he did nothing wrong, and relied on the directives of the Clerk’s office.

Whitlatch asked the court to sanction Mary Thompson’s estate as a result, charging that many of its claims of fraud were deliberately misleading.

But in Monday’s order, the court disagreed, saying, “… that while the Court ultimately determined that the claims were without merit, the Court did not find that the plaintiff interposed the claims maliciously, frivolously, or for any improper purpose such as harassment or needless expense or delay, and the Court thereby concludes that sanctions are not warranted.”

While attorney Thompson’s motion for dismissal of the suit was upheld, his motion for attorneys’ fees from the estate was also dismissed.

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