In Florida, a family is dealing with a shocking account from their relative, Michael Dever, a mentally ill man living in West Boca Raton. They say that Michael (who suffers from a paranoia disorder) was befriended by his neighbors and then taken advantage of by selling his house to them for $10.
The attorney for the neighbors insists that it was a valid and enforceable deal but refuses to answer any further questions.
Michael’s cousin, Keith Costello, says that Michael suffers from delusions and that the house was the only thing he had in this life. He says the Michael called him in a panic, saying he had no where to live. He did not know at the time about the deal.
The deed was signed over on June 17. Once Michael arrived at his cousin’s home he attempted to commit suicide and was placed in a mental hospital. It was only months later after therapy and medication that Michael told his cousin about the deal.
Michael owned the house outright and it was worth $64,000.
He is not getting much support from his neighbors. The reporter below says that neighbors blame it on Michael with one yelling “He’s the one that made the arrangements, he got the attorney, ask them!” Nice.
Michael Devers is now living in a YMCA in Maine.
Clearly, you cannot contract with a mentally disturbed person who is not competent to make such a deal. There are cases of realtors who have lost their licenses over such transactions. The standard is no different for lawyers. Presumably, if this deed sale was for more than $10 or some other nominal amount, the neighbors would have released the information. As it stands, there is ground for a criminal investigation. Moreover, if an attorney was involved and these facts stay on unchallenged, there could be a bar action. The first step is to challenge the deed transfer as invalid on the grounds of incompetence.
After the Supreme Court handed down its decision in O’Connor v. Donaldson in 1975, states were ordered that they cannot involuntarily hold a person who is not imminently a danger to himself or others and able to survive on his own. That decision ended abuses across the country and allowed mentally disabled individuals to have functional lives. In any such case, there can be problems particularly if an individual does not receive or take necessary medication. It appears that Devers was functional but had such lapses.
Given his state of mind, it is important to hear the other side and it is distressing to read that the neighbors are not responding. It remains hard for me to believe that there are human beings who would commit such an act and I am hoping to hear that the deed was transferred for some figure closer to $64,000. However, despite extensive coverage, there has been no conflicting information released or any response that I know of at this time. If these facts are correct, this is an especially outrageous abuse of a disabled person and an act worthy of criminal investigation. They could also be sued in tort for intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud. They could then face a considerable potential liability and even risk losing their home.
If anyone sees any response from the accused neighbors, please send it along. I will try to follow this story.