He was born with no arms and disfigured legs. He couldn’t walk. And though his mind was sound, perhaps even ingenious, he argued that legally he should have never been born.
The legal problems all began in 1999, when a Brooklyn attorney was first appointed as the disabled child’s guardian, charged with the duty of overseeing a large sum of money the 7-year-old had just been awarded in a wrongful-life action filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
A wrongful-life action is defined as “a lawsuit brought by or on behalf of a child with birth defects, alleging that but for the doctor-defendant’s negligent advice, the parents would not have conceived the child, or if they had, they would have aborted the fetus to avoid the pain and suffering resulting from the child’s congenital defects.”
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, most jurisdictions reject these claims. Brooklyn does not. Roy Lantigua, who was born without arms and with shortened legs and clubbed feet, received $684,700 from a settlement reached in his wrongful-life action.
With such a large sum of money, it would seem possible that Lantigua could purchase the items and services needed to actually make his everyday life a little closer to normal.
But the decision on what to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars on was not Lantigua’s to make. That decision was given to law guardian and Crown Heights attorney Ray Alfred Jones Jr.
And now, over a decade later, Jones could possibly face criminal prosecution for allegedly squandering over $500,000 of Lantigua’s money.
Several weeks ago, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Betsy Barros ordered Jones to pay a $501,425.67 surcharge, plus interest dating back to April 2004, for a pattern of “self-dealing and conflicts of interest” in his handling of the assets of Roy Lantigua.
“It is abundantly clear that [Jones] never acted in Roy’s best interest,” Justice Barros wrote in her March 31 ruling.
Jones was actually removed from his position as Lantigua’s guardian in 2004, and is no longer approved or eligible to serve as a guardian in Kings County.
But while serving as Lantigua’s guardian, Jones used the ward’s assets to buy Lantigua a home in Crown Heights that was not handicapped-accessible ($111,000), have the home renovated, though the renovations were never completed ($200,000), pay rent on a nearby apartment for Lantigua and his family to live in during said renovations ($32,000), and buy a handicapped-accessible van ($40,000), which Jones apparently took away from Lantigua’s mother after she got too many parking tickets.
“The hallmarks of [Jones]’s tenure as co-guardian/co-trustee are self-dealing, a cavalier disregard of Roy [Lantigua]’s abilities and disabilities, a contemptuous attitude toward and direct contravention of the court’s orders and authority, and a breakneck pace of expenditures, the lion’s share of which lie in the risky business of home renovation,” Justice Barros wrote in her order, which was published online.
This ruling against Jones ironically came in response to a February 2010 motion filed by Jones to obtain attorney’s fees for his work as Lantigua’s guardian.
“After [Jones] was removed from the fold, he came back and asked for extraordinary commissions for guardianing Roy,” said Francine Vlantes, the attorney representing Lantigua’s new guardians. “Kathryn [Greenberg, the new co-guardian] was the only one who objected. We asked the judge that not only should Ray Jones not be given anything, but that he should be surcharged.”
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A Wrongful Life - Forsaken Brooklyn Boy Had Fortune and Childhood Squandered by Law Guardian