Huguette Clark's 20-year hospital stay sparks lawsuit
Distant relatives claim the hospital took advantage of the reclusive heiress, who died in 2011 at 104 with a $300 million estate.
A recluse, her 20-year hospital stay and distant relatives vying for a chunk of the now-deceased heiress's $300 million estate have combined to spark a lawsuit alleging that a major New York City medical facility pressed her into donating a large piece of her fortune to it.
That lawsuit is the latest sad twist in the story of Huguette Clark, who arrived at Beth Israel Medical Center in 1991 and never left, even though her relatives claim she didn't need constant medical care, according to a report in The New York Times.
The case also highlights the conflicts of interest that can arise at nonprofit hospitals, which have an obligation to care for patients and whose fundraising staffers are always on the lookout for donations.
In Clark's case, her stay apparently led to several conflicts, including how her $300 million estate intersected with the hospital's doubts over whether she should even be allowed to remain there for two decades. During her tenure, Clark ended up giving Beth Israel at least $4 million in donations and a $1 million bequest in her contested will.
Clark died in 2011 at age 104. The relatives fighting the hospital are descendants from her father's first marriage. Clark's father was the copper baron William Andrews Clark, while her mother was his younger second wife.
Here are five notable points culled from the lawsuit:
Clark donated a Manet to the hospital: The heiress gave Beth Israel "Peonies in a Bottle" by the iconic impressionist painter. But when it sold for less than expected at a Sotheby's (BID) auction, Beth Israel's chief executive joked in an email that she "didn't take the bait and offer a half dozen more." Still, the hospital pocketed $3.15 million from the gift.
She paid $1,200 per day: By 1998, Clark was paying about that amount, or $438,000 per year. Multiply that times 20 years, and she may have paid $8.8 million for her hospital room.
The hospital had questions about evicting her: Several years after she was admitted, one internal email raised the question of whether Clark should even be allowed to remain. "Does Legal know about Miss Clark’s situation?" the email asked. "If we were forced to 'evict' her, we'd certainly have no hope of any support." It's not clear whether the legal department ever responded.
Clark had a doll obsession: She had no children and liked to give photographic tours of her dollhouses, which focused on Japanese themes. "She places dolls in the house and moves them through activities (drinking tea, walking in the garden, in conversation), taking a photo of each activity so that they tell a story," a development staff member wrote in a memo.
She was fiscally conservative: Clark appeared to keep tight control of her money and was fiscally conservative. A hospital development officer noted that a trust left by her mother was invested in municipal bonds.
Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.
Interesting how the family believed she didn't need constant medical care. yet in those twenty years not one of them managed to get her out of there and take her in themselves.
Why can't people just leave this woman alone? She loved dolls, so what happens? The media claims she has a doll "obcession which is, in today's world, just one sentence away from being certifiably "crazy".
Then there is the nonsense about how, a woman who is in her 90s in 1998, decides that instead of being mistreated in a old person's home she elects to stay in a hospital. Considering the state of retirement homes in the United States, Ms. Clark's decision was nothing less than brilliant.
As far as having family that behaved as family in name only now fighting over a rich family member's estate . . . how is this news?
The other stuff with her attorney and accountant, the courts will figure that out.
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