The state’s top court has sided with the Portland Museum of Art in a lawsuit over a disputed $4.6 million bequest, the Portland Press Herald reports.
The museum will now stand to collect the judgement from a civil trial last year, a Cumberland County jury’s decision that Annemarie Germain had coerced Eleanor Potter — a woman she looked after — into changing her will, which had previously named the museum as primary beneficiary. Germain filed an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which affirmed the verdict Tuesday without writing an opinion explaining the decision.
Thimi Mina, the museum’s attorney, said in an email that the court’s decision effectively ends the case.
“In the months to come, the [museum] will determine how best to maximize this generous gift, ensuring that the memory of the Eleanor Potter we knew – an avid, engaged and enthusiastic supporter of the arts – will live on for generations to come,” Mina wrote.
An attorney who represented Germain in the trial did not respond to an email late Tuesday afternoon.
Eleanor G. Potter, a wealthy art collector from Portland, changed her will months before she died in 2015 at age 89, leaving most of her estate to Germain. The museum sued Germain in 2017, claiming that she wrongfully pushed Potter to change the will.
The jury awarded the museum nearly $3.3 million that was considered lost because of the will change, plus more than $1 million in punitive damages. The museum received nearly $8 million in contributions and grants in 2017, the most recent tax year available, the Press Herald reports.
“This case brought into graphic perspective one of the more serious social problems confronting us today – elder financial abuse,” Mina said. “As our population becomes comprised of more and more vulnerable elderly, this problem poses an increasing threat.”