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NPR, SDSU, UNICEF, and Doctors Without Borders beat back Encinitas attorney

Appeals court says he influenced his sick client.

On April 20, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, agreed with a lower court decision assailing an Encinitas attorney for making himself the recipient of the fortune of an elderly, mentally ailing client, who had died.

The attorney is Carl Dimeff, who at this time has a clean record with the California State Bar. His client was Siv H. Ljungwe, a retired school teacher who had built up more than a million dollars in assets with her husband, and who had been confined for psychiatric treatment at one point, and late in life had become infatuated with Dimeff.

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She had intended to leave her estate to the National Public Radio (NPR) Foundation, San Diego State University Research Foundation, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders, according to a 2004 trust. In 2008, Dimeff, seeking to invalidate the 2004 trust, helped execute a superseding trust that named him as the beneficiary of her estate. The charities sued, seeking a reversal of the 2008 action and attorneys fees, among other things.

Dimeff argued in the appeal that another lawyer drafted the 2008 document and his client did not have mental problems. But the appeals court said that Dimeff had had substantial influence in the drafting of the document and "Dimeff procured the trust by way of undue influence." The appeals court also said that "Dimeff had actual knowledge that [his client] suffered from mental health issues" based on statements she made to him and letters she wrote him while still alive.

The appeals court upheld the trial court's decision that Dimeff must pay $1.3 million to the charities and pay legal fees of $1.5 million. The appeals court denied the charities' claim that Dimeff should be sanctioned.

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On April 20, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, agreed with a lower court decision assailing an Encinitas attorney for making himself the recipient of the fortune of an elderly, mentally ailing client, who had died.

The attorney is Carl Dimeff, who at this time has a clean record with the California State Bar. His client was Siv H. Ljungwe, a retired school teacher who had built up more than a million dollars in assets with her husband, and who had been confined for psychiatric treatment at one point, and late in life had become infatuated with Dimeff.

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She had intended to leave her estate to the National Public Radio (NPR) Foundation, San Diego State University Research Foundation, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders, according to a 2004 trust. In 2008, Dimeff, seeking to invalidate the 2004 trust, helped execute a superseding trust that named him as the beneficiary of her estate. The charities sued, seeking a reversal of the 2008 action and attorneys fees, among other things.

Dimeff argued in the appeal that another lawyer drafted the 2008 document and his client did not have mental problems. But the appeals court said that Dimeff had had substantial influence in the drafting of the document and "Dimeff procured the trust by way of undue influence." The appeals court also said that "Dimeff had actual knowledge that [his client] suffered from mental health issues" based on statements she made to him and letters she wrote him while still alive.

The appeals court upheld the trial court's decision that Dimeff must pay $1.3 million to the charities and pay legal fees of $1.5 million. The appeals court denied the charities' claim that Dimeff should be sanctioned.

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