10s of Millions at Stake in War Over Evalena Fisher's Estate
SAN ANGELO, TX – Recent filings in a lawsuit filed in Judge Penny Roberts’ County Court at Law #2 reveal that Blaine Smith, a former executive assistant director at Rio Concho West, attempted to make this all go away for a one-time payment of $400,000 to the family. The family claimed in a lawsuit that Smith unduly influenced their aunt to bequeath to Smith the majority of her estate.
The offer, made in April 2019, was rejected by the original heirs to a 1995 and perhaps later wills. Attorney Jeff Chandler, who is representing the original heirs, claimed the estate was now worth $42 million. Chandler’s counter-proposal was for Smith to pay the original heirs $10 million. That would leave Smith with $21 million and $290,000 per month in interest and royalty income forever, Chandler claimed.
Smith’s attorneys turned down the offer and challenged Chandler to file a counterclaim.
In the resulting counter-claims, Chandler accuses Smith of accepting gifts from elderly residents at his facility and acting as the executor of three other wills of elderly residents at Rio Concho West. And, Chandler alleges, Smith was so broke within a year of the 2011 Fisher will’s signing that he had to borrow $5,000 from his employer.
Chandler represents Eddy Joe Blowey, Bradford Blowey, Tillman Blowey, and Laura Blowey Wojenski, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of Mrs. Fisher.
How Rio Concho’s director ended up with the bulk of Mrs. Fisher’s estate and not her nieces and nephews named in earlier wills, is the nucleus of Chandler’s argument. He claims that by the time the disputed 2011 will was signed by Mrs. Fisher, she was legally blind and being kept sedated with opium for intestinal discomfort. Chandler also claims Mrs. Fisher did not have a mental capacity by 2011 to fully understand the will she signed that year. Chandler further alleges that the will was written under “undue influence” by Rio Concho West’s director.
Smith’s attorneys counter that the final will in 2011 was not the first will written since the 1995 will.
“[Attorney] Allen Price prepared five wills for Evalena Fisher. The last three of those wills dated respectively August 27, 2009, December 8, 2010 and June 2011, made the same deposition to Blaine Smith,” Smith’s attorney Larry Bale argued.
Smith was known as “the face” of Rio Concho West from Smith’s heavy exposure on TV commercials touting Rio Concho West at the time. See a commercial here:
Judge Penny Roberts agreed to allow Chandler and the court see the prescription drug records of Mrs. Fisher from 2001 until her death in 2017. The pharmacy was ordered to produce the records.
Smith’s attorneys allege that Chandler was engaged in a public smear campaign against his client and proceeding with a parallel trial by public opinion. Smith’s attorneys allege that Chandler leaked information to San Angelo LIVE! To prove their point Bale attached printouts of San Angelo LIVE! articles about the lawsuit. Because of this, Smith’s attorneys demanded a gag order from the court to prevent anyone from talking to San Angelo LIVE!. No other media sources were named in the request.
There is no published ruling about Judge Roberts’ decision on the gag order. Yet, when we reached out to Chandler this morning, he refused to talk to us.
Based upon court documents filed, Chandler’s strategy is to portray Mrs. Fisher as incapable of making a decision about any will signed by her post-2004. The court agreed to compel pharmacies to produce records about the types and quantities of drugs she was prescribed and that information will serve as evidence. In addition, Chander wants the judge to require Smith to release his personal financial records and credit card statements for the timeframe around when the last 2011 will was signed by Fisher. Based upon their motion for that information, Chandler may argue that Smith was in poor financial health and that provided a motive for Smith to exert undue influence on Mrs. Fisher to sign a will bequeathing the majority of her wealth to Smith for his personal financial gain.
The jury trial is set for August 10, 2020.
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