Escheated No More: Homeless Senior Reunited with $744 by Generous Officials
A recent ELA client, age 64 and homeless, caused a stir for San Diego County Officials and illuminated the rules of escheatment for the public. The client contacted ELA in September 2011 after he discovered that San Diego County had escheated $744 left over from the sale of a storage facility to the General Fund. ELA’s Managing Attorney, Lois Kelly, Esq. took the case knowing that she would be making an equitable argument on his behalf, and could not have foreseen such a surprising outcome.
In 2004, the client experienced severe financial problems – he lost his job and placed his personal property with a value over $50,000 into storage. Now homeless, he eventually could no longer afford the storage unit rent. The facility sold his property at a fraction of its worth but was never able to make contact with him regarding the $744 owed to him after the sale. Living on the streets and in shelters, he never saw the County’s newspaper announcements about the monies owed to him. Per escheatment rules, the $744 was turned over to San Diego County and became property of the taxpayers when he didn’t come forward within three-years.
When ELA learned of his case, the three-year mark had long passed, but regardless a motion was filed his behalf arguing that homelessness is a physical impairment that should exempt him from the 3-year rule – the first case of its kind in San Diego. ELA argued that as a homeless person he was unlikely to view the escheatment announcements in the often subscription based newspapers. The judge rejected the suit finding that the County had followed the law precisely.
When San Diego CityBeat learned of the verdict, they took up the client’s cause. Dave Maass of CityBeat wrote an editorial and urged County officials to look into repaying the funds. Tom Blair of the Union Tribune also picked up the story and built public support. These articles pleaded with the County to reunite the client with his much-needed money. A week later, our client received a check for $744. CityBeat reported that County officials had taken up a collection and gave the client the money out of their own pockets.
“Sometimes just by taking the simplest action on behalf of a client who may not otherwise have done so, we find justice in unexpected ways.”
– Lois Kelly, Esq.
Without ELA’s motion, this man’s story may not have been heard nor his request answered. Hopefully his story will also highlight the special considerations that the homeless require in future escheament announcement policies.
ELA thanks CityBeat and the Union Tribune San Diego for sharing this story and shining light on the rules of escheatment notifications. A tremendous thank you also to those anonymous San Diego County Administration donors who so generously repaid the $744, demonstrating the true meaning of justice.
Read More About this Client’s Story:
How the County Took a Homeless Man’s $744 by Dave Maass, San Diego CityBeat
In this Case, at Least, Size Does Matter by Tom Blair, Union Tribune San Diego
A Man and His Money by CityBeat Staff, San Diego CityBeat
County Officials Earn Good Karma by CityBeat Staff, San Diego CityBeat
Be sure to check for escheated funds owed to you through San Diego County’s easy-to-use website by the end of each calendar year when funds are turned over to the General Fund.