Doc charged $70K for losing testimony in cop’s inheritance case
By Elizabeth Dinan
November 4, 2015
PORTSMOUTH — A Maine psychiatrist billed $70,000 for his research and testimony about the late Geraldine Webber, who he never met, for the losing side of a legal case that ended with dismissal of Webber’s $2 million inheritance to now-fired police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin.
Portland psychiatrist David Bourne submitted five bills, to be paid by Webber’s estate, totaling $70,120, according to court records. He testified on the last day of a 10-day probate hearing to dispute Webber’s estate and offered opinions that consistently differed from Judge Gary Cassavechia’s final order.
Portsmouth attorney Paul McEachern, who successfully represented four of Webber’s friends contesting Goodwin’s inheritance, said Cassavechia has been asked to review all of the bills paid from Webber’s estate, including Bourne’s costs for his testimony.
“Ultimately it’s up to the court to approve the expenses,” said McEachern, adding that his side of the probate case did not hire any witnesses.
With regard to the $70,000 Bourne billed, McEachern said, “I’m amazed, that’s all I can say.”
Bourne testified on May 12 that he was hired to offer an opinion about Webber’s mental capacity on the day she endorsed the overturned will and trust that largely benefited Goodwin. He was also hired to offer an opinion about whether Webber was unduly influenced by Goodwin, which the judge ruled was the case.
To prepare for his half-day of testimony, Bourne said during the probate hearing, he read “a number of documents, all available medical records,” depositions, exhibits, Webber’s calendar entries and state records. He said he also visited Webber’s Portsmouth home, after her death, “to get a feel of how she lived.”
In conclusion, Bourne said, Webber’s cognitive abilities were “good enough” to sign most of her $2.7 million estate over to Goodwin, who she had recently met while he was on duty.
Bourne testified that he did not find it odd that an elderly woman would fall in love with a man in his early 30s, who had a wife and a family, and would change her estate to his benefit. He acknowledged he had not seen anything like it outside of a family relationship.
Bourne was asked about a report written by another psychiatrist who had met Webber and found her incompetent to make medical decisions and in need of a guardian for her financial and medical affairs. Bourne said that doctor was not assessing Webber’s competency to endorse estate documents on the day she did and that he never contacted that doctor for further details.
Asked to comment about a March 2012 report by another doctor, who said Webber was at risk of self harm by neglect and had cognitive impairment, Bourne said that evaluation occurred after Webber had fallen and was “banged up.” Bourne said he never contacted that doctor either.
Bourne also dismissed prior testimony from Webber’s longtime physician, Dr. Ira Schwartz, who said Webber had significant dementia, that no one was overseeing her care and that she lacked the capacity to sign any legal document. Bourne said he read that report, never contacted Schwartz and disagreed that Webber was significantly demented.
During his paid testimony, Bourne disputed a medical doctor’s opinion that Webber suffered from social isolation. He also dismissed a suggestion that Webber was confused about her finances because she once said “a sea captain knickknack” in her home was worth $3 million.
“It’s her humor,” Bourne testified.
Similarly, he offered his expert opinion that Webber was exhibiting her “propensity to shock” when she told an attorney that her Shaw Road home was worth “millions” and spoke of Goodwin in sexual terms.
Under cross examination by McEachern, Bourne said he billed $375 an hour for his research and testimony and said the research was “extremely time intensive.”
“It was a major time commitment,” Bourne said from the witness stand in May.
McEachern also told Bourne during the probate hearing that Webber died on Dec. 11, 2012 of inanition and he asked Bourne if he knew what that meant.
“I do not know what that means,” Bourne answered.
McEachern replied that it means a failure to eat and is associated with dementia.