RMO LLP scores appellate win in case against alleged elder abductor

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 12, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Probate litigation law firm RMO LLP scored another major appellate win earlier this month, after an appellate court upheld their court victory against a man accused of abducting an 89-year-old woman and manipulating her estate.

A California Second Appellate District Panel rejected the appeal by Charles J. Bluth, the defendant in an underlying lawsuit for civil extortion, among other claims. A superior court judge awarded a default judgment in favor of RMO’s client, and Bluth – effectively pleading ignorance – asked the appellate panel to set aside the default.

Matthew F. Baker, a partner at RMO who led the action against Bluth, and David Greco, who was recently elevated to partner, who handled the oral argument, celebrated the prompt dismissal of Bluth’s appeal as a forceful rejection of his attempt to escape responsibility.

“Bluth’s failure to refute our client’s claims shows those claims were meritorious. The desperate nature of his renewed defense efforts only served to reinforce that,” Baker said. “We’re thankful to the panel and satisfied knowing the defendant’s dilatory tactics didn’t prevail.”

The firm’s client had purchased property from his mother in her capacity as trustee of a trust established for her late husband. The client executed a promissory note, secured by a deed of trust recorded against the property, which his mother shortly after forgave.

Years later, the client’s then-89 year old mother was abducted from her rehabilitation center with the consent of Bluth – by that point serving as “acting trustee” of the trust – and unduly influenced to demand payment on the previously forgiven promissory note, holding the property under threat of foreclosure.

RMO filed its action on the client’s behalf in July 2018, naming Bluth as a defendant. Four months later – after Bluth’s failure to respond to the court’s summons and the subsequent default judgment – Bluth filed to have the decision set aside on “the ground of excusable neglect” under Code of Civil Procedure Section 473(b).

While acknowledging service of the complaint, Bluth claimed he believed the case only involved him in his capacity as acting trustee, and he had assumed responsibility for the defense would fall to the trust. The lower court quickly dismissed the request, reasoning there was no evidence of Bluth’s ignorance, which prompted Bluth’s appeal.

The appellate court, comprised of Justices Thomas L. Willhite Jr., Brian S. Currey, and Nora M. Manella, found the trial court acted within its discretion in finding that Bluth failed to show “either a satisfactory excuse for his default or diligence in seeking relief.”

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit https://rmolawyers.com/.


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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner​

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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