By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A Sumner County woman who won a partial victory in an attempt to get out of a conservatorship now may be faced with some $20,000 in legal bills and nearly as much in health care costs she never agreed to incur.
Records show two attorneys have filed fee claims totaling $21,074.19 in the conservatorship of Reba Sherrill who was first placed in a temporary health care conservatorship and then a regular conservatorship over her protests.
The fee requests were filed by Corletra Mance and Cathryn Armistead. Mance is seeking $7,605, while Armistead is asking for $13,469.19. Mance billed at $150 an hour while Armistead billed $175 an hour.
“I didn’t hire those people. I didn’t ask for these people” Sherrill said in reaction to the billings.”They held me hostage. Vanderbilt should pay the bills.”
Both Armistead and Mance were appointed by Davidson Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy after Vanderbilt University Medical Center petitioned the court to appoint a temporary conservator who could approve the transfer of Sherrill to another facility. The petition stated that she no longer needed the level of care provided by Vanderbilt.
Kennedy approved Vanderbilt’s requested appointment of Armistead as Sherrill’s temporary conservator and he named Mance, as a guardian ad litem, with the assignment of investigating the case and making a recommendation to the court.
No sooner had Sherrill been placed in a nursing home over her strong objections than she was shuttled back to Vanderbilt and then off to a second nursing home.
Meanwhile Vanderbilt had petitioned the court to make Sherrill’s conservatorship permanent with Armistead as her permanent conservator. Kennedy ultimately agreed to make the conservatorship permanent but with Sherrill’s brother as the conservator.
He also issued an order forcing Sherrill’s lawyer to turn over to the court the little over $1 million she won in the settlement of a claim filed in following an automobile mishap which left her as a paraplegic. She was hit be a car over a year ago.
Vanderbilt officials and their attorneys have not responded to questions about the reasons for their actions.
Sherrill said Vanderbilt should be paying the legal bills.
“I didn’t start this mess. Vanderbilt did,” she said.
Though court records show that the medical institution that filed the petition often is charged with paying such legal fees, Kennedy dismissed Vanderbilt from the case when he appointed Alexander Sherrill, Reba’s brother as her conservator.
Asked who she expected would have to pay her bill, Armistead said that under the circumstances she would expect that Alexander Sherrill would be the one to pay the bill, since Reba is under a conservatorship she lacks the legal capacity to execute a contract.
“I expect the conservator of her estate to pay,” she wrote in an email response to questions.
She noted that Sherrill’s attorneys had entered into an agreed order acknowledging their client was in need of a conservator.
Mance said that she also has been dismissed from the case adding that in the past on such cases when a person being conserved has assets the fee is collected from the filer of the original petition.
Ultimately, both Mance and Armistead said, it will be up to Kennedy to decide who pays the legal bills.
Meanwhile Sherrill says she received a bill for $19,000 from the nursing home where she was sent.
The billing records submitted by the two lawyers show Mance billed 3.25 hours for talking to Armistead on the case and Armistead billed 4.6 hours for talking to Mance.
In addition to the legal fees, court papers indicate a bill will be filed for the time Sherrill spent in the nursing home.