The Pine Cone's sixth story of the week

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Doctor who sued caregiver over financial abuse dies

By KELLY NIX

Published: February 3, 2012

LAWRENCE LOFTUS — the Carmel man who filed a lawsuit against his former caregiver nearly two years ago for taking millions of dollars from his estate — has died. He was 88.
Loftus, a retired physician who had a home on Scenic Road, passed away Jan. 21 less than two years after he filed suit against his former caregiver, Charles Harper.

“He was a sweet guy,” Loftus’ Carmel attorney, Frank Hespe, told The Pine Cone Tuesday.

Loftus made news in February 2010 when he filed suit against Harper in Monterey County Superior Court, alleging the caregiver looted his estate, including taking out big loans in his name. Loftus was left with virtually nothing.

“Because all the financial abuse, he died a pauper,” Hespe said.

On Aug. 12, 2011, Harper agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying Loftus $1 million. Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley approved the terms of the agreement, which required Harper to pay the money to Loftus within 60 days.

Less than a month later, though, Harper filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court claiming he was broke and unable to pay Loftus. But because the settlement was made when Loftus was alive, Hespe said the agreement is still binding and will transfer to his surviving heirs, which include two adult children.

The $1 million “is an asset like any other asset, and it will go to his children,” Hespe said. “They have a right to collect on that against Charles Harper. We believe justice will continue to be done.”

After the suit was filed, professional caregivers took care of Loftus at his Carmel home. Months later, Loftus was at Carmel Hills Care Center, the Monterey nursing where he lived until his death.

Before his retirement, Loftus, an internist, had a long and distinguished medical career, which included treating President Lyndon Johnson when he was a senator and being a personal physician for the head of NATO in the 1950s.

 

‘Someone to protect his rights’

A few months after Loftus hired Hespe to file suit against Harper in February 2010, Hespe said it was clear Loftus had no more cash to pay for legal representation. Hespe and his law partner, Albert Nicora, decided to work for Loftus for nothing. The attorneys and staff in their office staff spent hundreds of hours on the case.

“I did it on a pro bono basis because Dr. Loftus clearly needed someone to protect him and stand up for this rights, and he simply could not afford to pay an attorney,” Hespe said.

“What Harper did was such a horrible and sad injustice in my opinion, that I simply could not let him get away with it. I was afraid that Harper would continue to commit this type of elder abuse on future victims if someone did not stand up to him.”

When a Pine Cone reporter called Harper late last year for comment, he said he no longer wanted to be contacted by the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Loftus made specific plans for his death, according to Hespe.

“The instructions were to cremate him and mix his ashes with his deceased wife’s — who was the love of his life — and scatter them in the ocean in front of his house on Scenic Road,” Hespe said.