Hear Ye! Hear Ye! explores a real court case. Read about it below and decide how you would rule. Then read the actual verdict and let us know whether you agree.
In 2003, Marie Mear was 75 and living on a Social Security income of $750 a month. Her entire liquid net worth was $50,125.65, which she had invested in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
According to Mear, Karl Powell, a salesman for the Sun Life Assurance Company based in Arizona where Mear lived, had been calling her for about two years about an investment opportunity. He became “a phone friend,” she says. “He knew how much money I had. I didn’t tell him.” When Mear decided she wanted a little more security and a better return on her money, she decided to meet with Powell.
While Marie Mear made serious allegations of fraud, the district court said she failed to show that Sun Life had a “general scheme” to sell inappropriate annuities to older Americans. She offered no proof that Sun Life pushed the annuities on people in her age group in order to get “massive surrender charges.” In reviewing her signed application, the annuity summary and insurance certificate, the court found that all of the “omissions” that Mear alleged were explained in those documents.
In addition, Mear did not show how any other omissions, not explained in the Sun Life documents, were “part of a deliberate and fraudulent scheme to cause her harm.” Mear did not show any actual damages from her purchase of the annuity. While she discussed potential for economic loss, Mear had not removed any funds from the annuity and had not suffered any economic harm.
The court held that Mear did not prove her case and dismissed it.
Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.