Friends claim the same legal arrangement that controlled Britney Spears is rapidly killing their pal Paulette.
An Upper West Side building’s management company’s accusation that a rent-controlled tenant is indisposed has forced an elderly woman into a nightmare scenario, companions allege.
Last December, while 92-year-old Paulette Kohler was in a rehab center following surgery, her building’s management company — suspecting something fishy — filed a petition accusing her of being incapacitated and potentially the victim of elder financial abuse, NBC first reported. The so-called abuser? Her “alleged housekeeper” Inga Eggerud, a Norwegian immigrant Kohler and her late husband had been friends with since 2011. Without providing any evidence, the petition added that Eggerud was currently the “subject of a criminal investigation.”
Despite the lack of proof, New York County Supreme Court responded to the management company’s filing by appointing a stranger to take control of Kohler’s life and finances. Then, in April, Eggerud — who Kohler named her power of attorney and beneficiary in 2021 — was barred from seeing her friend. The following month, Kohler’s friend Marie Jensen and Eggerud’s longtime employer Barbara Goodstein were also barred from seeing Kohler, who has no living relatives.
In June, when Kohler was finally allowed to go home from the rehab center, she went to Goodstein’s apartment in search of Eggerud. When told she wasn’t allowed to see Eggerud, she asked, upset, “I know, but why?”
“It’s not right,” Eggerud said during an interview with NBC. “They took Paulette away from me.”
“There was no explanation ever given for why I was banned and why Barbara was banned, it’s just [the court] wanted to have total control,” Jensen opined to the outlet, comparing the situation this created for Kohler to “solitary confinement.”
The real motive for effectively socially isolating an ailing senior citizen, Goodstein charges, is to open up Kohler’s prime apartment for sale. The nonagenarian pays just $1,910 a month for her two-bedroom home at 500 West End Ave., where she’s lived since 1957. Other units at the tony doorman building regularly rent for well over $8,000 a month and sell for more than $3 million, according to recent listings.
“The avarice of the building has only been rivaled by a predatory court system that has marshaled Ms. Kohler’s entire net worth, which is being used to pay the people the court has imposed on her against her will,” Goodstein told The Post. “She has lost her civil rights, her voice and access to proper medical care. And now she will die alone, while her friends watch helplessly from a distance.”
The attorney for the building’s LLC insisted to NBC that their only concern has always been to protect a vulnerable person from being exploited. A representative of the building did not return The Post’s request for comment.
Eggerud, Goodstein and Jensen have since been unbarred from seeing Kohler, but the guardianship has proved disastrous for her already failing health — and her friends fear she has little time left.
“She spent the last seven months of her life completely isolated from the people she loves. This should not have happened,” said Goodstein of the period from April to October when Kohler couldn’t see her friends. “And the only person we could escalate to was the judge who imposed the restrictions to begin with, Judge Sharpe.”
Judge Carol Sharpe is also currently overseeing another controversial, years-long guardianship case, this one involving 57-year-old construction worker and certified home health aide Jose Verdugo who insists he’s “fine” despite Sharpe’s insistence that further medical evaluation is necessary to determine as much, NBC reported. Verdugo’s court-installed guardian says Verdugo has “refused to communicate with her” and the court-appointed attorneys says Verdugo’s family may not be operating in his best interests. His daughter, however, says they “know nothing about my father” and that the situation is very painful. She has filed to terminate the guardianship.
“Guardianship cases are some of the most fraught, so the fact that a litigant is not pleased with the outcome is an unfortunate reality,” a NY Courts spokesperson told The Post.
The next and ninth hearing in Kohler’s case is set for Jan. 17. Her friends are continuing their fight to remove Kohler’s court-appointed guardian, but should that not happen before what Goodstein says is her “imminent” death, they hope at least that she may pass away surrounded by those she loves.
“I just want her to go in peace,” Eggerud said.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.