The court-appointed conservator for Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney has agreed to a $2.8 million stipulated judgment in a suit brought against the entertainer's stepson and his wife for restricting access to his assets, misappropriating his name and likeness and verbally abusing him, Rooney's attorneys announced Monday.
The settlement agreements, which have not yet received court approval, come after Rooney's conservator Michael R. Augustine filed suit in 2011, alleging various causes of action stemming from elder abuse and misappropriation of Rooney's likeness. Earlier that year, Rooney had been granted court protection from Christopher Aber and his wife Christina, according to Rooney's counsel.
"Clearly fame does not insulate an individual from the trauma and neglect of elder abuse, as Mickey Rooney's case vividly demonstrates," Bruce S. Ross, partner at Holland & Knight LLP and counsel to Rooney, said in a statement Monday. "We are very pleased to bring this long chapter of abuse by his stepson to an end."
The $2.8 million settlement brings the litigation mostly to an end, but litigation remains pending against the Abers' insurance company, Fire Insurance Exchange, which has sued Rooney's conservator in an effort to avoid paying the judgment, according to the firm.
Augustine filed the lawsuit in September 2011, claiming that after Rooney put his stepson in charge of his personal and business affairs, he and his wife banked on Rooney's fame to live a lavish lifestyle.
Aber kept Rooney in the dark about his own financial resources and forced him to make paid appearances against his will, the suit alleges. Aber and his wife also are accused of threatening and verbally abusing the 90-year-old entertainer.
Aber got a foothold into Rooney's finances through a company called Densmore Productions Inc., set up in 1998 to manage the actor's professional work, the suit said. Without telling Rooney, Aber had issued himself majority stock in the company and named himself treasurer, according to the suit. Aber was then able to be in control of other companies that managed Rooney's affairs, it said.
These entities, under Aber's control, received Rooney's residual payments, Social Security benefits, pension and other sources of income, according to the complaint. Aber then allegedly used the companies to take out credit cards and sign checks payable to himself, it said.
Aber also scheduled and negotiated Rooney's personal appearances and acting engagements, with the proceeds going to the entities he controlled, freezing Rooney out of his own money, the suit alleged.
Rooney received his court-appointed conservator in February 2011. The conservator's lawsuit sought damages, creation of a trust to oversee all the defendants' assets to which Rooney is entitled and an order blocking the defendants from using his name and image.
Vivian L. Thoreen of Holland & Knight said it was an honor and a privilege to help Rooney "obtain the justice he deserves."
"Mr. Rooney had tremendous courage to come forward with his story and we hope he will be an enduring example to other suffering seniors that they do not have to suffer silently alone," Thoreen said Monday. "As this judgment demonstrates, there will be serious consequences for those who abuse our seniors."