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5 days too late: Stan Lee estate loses elder abuse case because filing was outside the statute of limitations


FILE – In this March 21, 2006 file photo, comic book creator Stan Lee stands beside some of his drawings in the Marvel Super Heroes Science Exhibition at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

The estate of Stan Lee has lost its yearslong battle against an attorney accused of taking advantage of the comic book legend — all because of a missed deadline.

Joan Lee, the daughter of Stan Lee and administrator of his estate, had sued Jerardo Olivarez in April 2018 alleging professional negligence stemming from financial losses. Attorney Uri Litvak was added to an amended exploitation and elder abuse complaint about a year later — one year and five days, to be exact. According to court filings, Olivarez had “insinuated his way into Mr. Lee’s acquaintance” by way of his “personal relationship” with Joan Lee in the final years of Stan Lee’s life. Olivarez had allegedly insisted that Joan Lee bring attorney Litvak on to handle some of her father’s business dealings.

Stan Lee died in November 2018. According to a lawsuit filed against Olivarez in April 2018, he had “suffered financial losses due to the malfeasance of both Olivarez and Litvak.” That malfeasance allegedly included “Olivarez convincing Lee to give him power of attorney, invading Lee’s financial resources without Lee’s consent, purchasing real property, stealing personal property, and similar nefarious actions, as well as procuring Mr. Litvak to act as Lee’s counsel in his business dealings with Olivarez, while concealing the conflict of interest derived from Mr. Litvak’s simultaneous representation of Olivarez,” according to court filings.

Olivarez and Litvak “used their fiduciary powers and positions of trust to cause Mr. Lee to unknowingly enter into [various] disadvantageous agreements,” the complaint said, arguing that as a result, Stan Lee faced lawsuits that could have potentially cost him millions.

Olivarez, who was also accused of elder abuse, settled the case against him in July 2022. The case against Litvak, however, continued.

This week’s ruling against Stan Lee’s estate relies heavily on an arbitrator’s conclusion that the second amended complaint was filed five days after the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

“Respondent argues, in light of Mr. Lee’s complaint filed April 12, 2018, alleging Mr. Litvak’s malfeasance, that Mr. Lee was necessarily on notice of said malfeasance no later than April 12, 2018,” Judge David H. Brickner, a retired judge serving as the arbitrator in this case, wrote in the February ruling. “Hence, the complaint on April 17, 2019 is five days late.”

Lawyers for Lee’s estate had apparently argued that Litvak’s representation of Stan Lee had continued beyond April 12, 2018, which would have stopped the clock on the statute of limitations. Brickner was not convinced.

“The letter from Mr. Lee on December 13, 2017 leaves no doubt in the arbitrator’s mind that Mr. Litvak’s professional services were terminated, both in the minds of Mr. Litvak and Mr. Lee,” Brickner wrote. “No reasonable person could conclude otherwise and Ms. Lee has raised no issue of fact or law suggesting the contrary.”

The ruling is the latest win for people accused of exploiting Stan Lee. In May 2019, his former business manager Keya Morgan was arrested on charges of embezzlement, theft, forgery or fraud against an elder adult, and false imprisonment of elder abuse. Morgan was accused of stealing more than $220,000 from Stan Lee in the months before he died. He also faced a misdemeanor elder abuse charge. Those charges ended in a deadlocked jury in November 2022 and the ultimate dismissal of the charges.

Read the ruling, via the Hollywood Reporter, here.

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