NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
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JOSEPH and DORIS KANE, No. 01-11503
ELIZABETH MARIE HARWOOD,
v. A.P. No. 01-1095
JOSEPH and DORIS KANE,
Memorandum of Decision
Plaintiff Elizabeth Harwood is the 93-year-old mother of debtor and defendant Doris Kane. In
this adversary proceeding, brought by Elizabeth's guardian ad litem, she seeks determination that she
has a claim against the Kanes for about $290,000.00 and that the claim is nondischargeable.
Whether couched as elder abuse, financial abuse, undue influence, defalcation, embezzlement,
fraud or conversion, the crux of Elizabeth's claims is that the Kanes wrongfully obtained her money.
However, the evidence established no wrongdoing on the part of the Kanes. It appeared to the court
that their conduct has always been honest and caring.
Elizabeth lived in a senior apartment very near the Kanes from 1989 to 1995, enjoying a great
deal of daily care and attention from Doris and avoiding having to live in a nursing home. In 1995, after
she suffered a stroke, she agreed with Doris that the Kanes would take her in and care for her in return
for some financial help. This was no light undertaking on Doris' part. Her mother was legally blind,
was beginning to suffer the initial symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, and had a personality order which
could make her very difficult to live with. She was very demanding and needed constant help and
On the other hand, Elizabeth was very generous and giving with Doris. Elizabeth had one other
daughter from whom she was estranged. Elizabeth, with no encouragement or participation by Doris,
had made a will which left everything to Doris. Elizabeth felt that as long as Doris was caring for her
she should have free access to her money, which was to be Doris' anyway under the will. She fully
understood the periodic financial problems Doris and her husband suffered, and was glad to have her
money used by the family.
In August of 1998, due her increasing senility and her personality order, (1)
temporarily convinced that the Kanes had cheated her out of some of her money. (2)
daughter and that daughter's son, Don May, appear to have had a hand in this turn of events. To their
credit, the Kanes never wavered from their concern or care for Elizabeth and took her back in to live
with them even while litigation in her name continued against them.
The evidence was compelling that the Kanes have always acted properly in their relations with
Elizabeth. They have always acted towards her with love and devotion and not the avarice alleged in
the complaint. There is no doubt in the court's mind that Elizabeth intended the Kanes to have the
money they received from her and that, to the best of her diminished abilities, she was grateful to the
Kanes for taking her into their home and caring for her.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff will take nothing by her complaint which will be dismissed
with prejudice. The Kanes shall recover their costs of suit.
This memorandum constitutes the court's findings and conclusions pursuant to FRCP 52(a) and
FRBP 7052. Counsel for the Kanes shall submit an appropriate form of judgment forthwith.
Dated: December 12, 2001 ___________________________
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge
1. The testimony of all witnesses was completely consistent with two psychiatric evaluations of
Elizabeth, by two different doctors, which found that Elizabeth suffered from a personality disorder
which caused her to insist, with complete conviction, upon facts which were not true. Elizabeth's
estranged daughter was probably a victim of this disorder when she was disinherited. The disorder is
undoubtedly the source of Elizabeth's accusations against the Kanes.
2. Even at the worst of times, Elizabeth acknowledged considerable loans and gifts to Doris.
Even if the court had found wrongdoing, the damages would be far less than the amount al