Sibling dispute: HD 67 challenger Dawn Douglas settled nasty lawsuit with sister over late mother’s property
Closeup of a sculpture of Themis, mythological Greek goddess, symbol of justice, blind and holding empty balance in her hand

Closeup of a sculpture of Themis, mythological Greek goddess, sy
Douglas, who is challenging Chris Latvala, faced a heated dispute with her sister last year.

At the end of last year, a Democratic candidate for Florida House District 67 settled a lawsuit claiming she had taken advantage of her mother’s deteriorating mental capacity to acquire her mother’s property.

Dawn Douglas is running against Republican incumbent Chris Latvala. The lawsuit, she said, stemmed from a heated dispute with her sister and was settled amicably among both parties by splitting the property, details of which Douglas preferred to keep private as it was a family matter.

Douglas’ sister, Denise Lute Ehrlich, filed suit against Douglas in Pinellas County Court last February as the attorney-in-fact on behalf of Douglas’ mother, Frances Marie Kotsch. An attorney-in-fact is someone who is not necessarily an attorney, but who has similar powers to that of a power of attorney.

The lawsuit claimed Douglas “induced Frances Marie Kotsch to purportedly execute” a Durable Power of Attorney and a Major Gifts Rider using forms she obtained from a website rather than going through her mother’s established attorney, John Pecarek.

“Defendant’s sole purpose in obtaining the Gifting POA was to enable her to transfer” her mother’s “property to herself,” the lawsuit claims.

“At the time Frances Marie Kotsch purportedly executed the Gifting POA, her memory loss had become quite severe, she was no longer oriented as to date and time, had started to succumb to advanced dementia, and had been suffering from a number of other maladies associated with old age,” the lawsuit said.

Douglas admitted the dispute was heated, and that both she and her sister acted out of turn at times. It was her sister’s husband, a brother-in-law she said she admires and considers a friend, who ultimately brought the parties together for resolution.

“It was really him who came in as the voice of reason to set us straight. He sort of said, ‘this is what we’re going to do,’ and it worked out from there quickly,” Douglas said.

The suit claimed Douglas knew of her mother’s physical and mental condition, but failed to take legal matters to Pecarek, who had been Kotsch’s “long-standing attorney.” It claimed Douglas was trying to “avoid Mr. Pecarek’s scrutiny.”

Douglas used her power of attorney to execute a quitclaim deed on “Ms. Kotsch’s only asset of any substance,” according to the now-settled suit.

Kotsch moved from her home in 2013 after her husband passed away and into an assisted living facility, it said. She allowed Douglas to move into the home provided she assumed financial obligations for the property, the lawsuit claimed.

But it was Kotsch’s “long-standing intent that the property descend to both her children subject only to her need to liquidate the property in the event her income can no longer meet her expenses; a situation that is now likely to happen.”

Douglas’ “fraudulent” actions to “transfer the property to herself” “effectively” nullified “the purpose of Ms. Kotsch’s Last Will and Testament as well as her financial plan,” the lawsuit said.

Kotsch passed away before the matter was settled and, thankfully Douglas said, was not privy to the heated battled between sisters.

The lawsuit sought to reclaim the property for Kotsch and court costs and “such other and further relief as the Court may deem proper.”

The case was dismissed out of court on Dec. 5, 2019. Kotsch passed away three months earlier.

While Douglas and her sister settled the matter out of court, Douglas said she and her sister still have damage to repair in their relationship.

“Sometimes you just need a little breathing room,” she said. “But I’m hopeful we will get there. She’s my only sibling.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].

One comment

  • Harold Finch

    October 8, 2020 at 10:27 am

    NO doubt Douglas is an evil and dishonest woman who would cheat her only sister. Is this the kind of person who should be elected to the State House? Absolutely not!!

Comments are closed.


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