This was the headline in a Texas paper recently. The agent was arrested and accused of deceiving the victim of selling mineral rights valued between $85,900 and $143,780 for $10. The agent, a 10 year veteran, was charged with numerous felonies including security execution of a document by deception and exploitation. The seller, who was living at a nursing home at the time of the transaction, was suffering from dementia and blindness. The agent claimed that while he knew about the vision issues, he was unaware of any other medical conditions.
The man’s family claims the agent never read the document to his client and they have recently filed a civil suit against the agent as well. Nevada’s seniors are the fourth fastest growing elder population in the U.S. and licensees will undoubtedly be involved at some point with representing a senior buyer or seller. Agents who choose to ignore obvious signs of cognitive deficits increase the likelihood they will become embroiled in litigation.
I can already hear the moans that “I am not a psychologist, so how am I suppose to be responsible for knowing my client’s mental state?” However, the analogy is made to agents who claim they shouldn’t be responsible for disclosing material conditions about a property (despite the obligation under NRS 645.252 to do so) because they are not a licensed house inspector. However, you don’t have to be a house inspector, to notice obvious signs of potential problems with a property (for example, water stains, paint peeling, base boards separating, that may be signs of water intrusion. Similarly, it doesn’t take a psychologist to notice a client is suffering from confusion or short term memory issues.
Licensees have a duty of absolute fidelity to their clients (and should) face liability if they permit a client who may not comprehend the transaction and choose to ignore the issues. However, there are a number of methods to address these issues when they arise and future posts will discuss your options.
Drizin Law is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult an attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.