Brain-damaged soon after birth, Cristal Marie McBean has spent much of her life dependent on three things: a ventilator to keep her breathing, round-the-clock nursing care and her father.
But as the quadriplegic Lauderhill woman nears her 22nd birthday, both her future and her health have been cast into doubt because of a depleted guardianship account and the possibility that her father, Glenford McBean, could be deported to his native Jamaica.
"This has created a nightmarish situation for this family," said Gary Fox, an attorney representing the guardianship of Cristal McBean. "This is all very scary for all of us who care about this little girl."
Lawyers representing the nonprofit corporation that acts as McBean's guardian have filed a lawsuit accusing financial services giant Northern Trust Co. of negligence, alleging that over 15 years it failed to protect nearly $5 million of her assets.
Northern Trust said it plans to "vigorously defend" its actions, saying it did its duty to protect and preserve the assets of McBean's estate.
Meanwhile, Glenford McBean, a 53-year-old legal permanent resident, has been placed in removal proceedings after he applied for citizenship and immigration officials saw that he had pleaded no contest to a marijuana charge.
If deported, said McBean, his daughter likely would be sent to a nursing home. He said he fears she would die there.
His daughter has little cognitive ability. She does not speak, cannot walk and it is uncertain even to her father what she is able to see, hear and comprehend.
Nurses feed her through a tube every six hours, stretch her limbs and keep her airway clear.
However, she is aware of her father's presence, McBean said. When she hears his voice in the next room, for example, she is able to stop her breathing long enough to set off the alarm in her ventilator, he said.
"That is her way of calling me," he said.
What follow are key events regarding Cristal McBean's care.
Deprived of oxygen
She was born prematurely in April 1992. After a year at a Miami hospital she was moved to a facility in Broward County, where at the age of 18 months she suffered brain damage when deprived of oxygen.
Through a 1995 settlement with her health care providers, McBean received $1 million in cash and an annuity that would pay her more than $13,000 a month. The following year a court appointed Northern Trust as the guardian of McBean's property.
The crux of the lawsuit, filed in Broward Circuit Court, is the allegation by McBean's current guardianship that Northern Trust allowed McBean's assets to be wasted by failing to set up a special-needs trust. If a trust had been created, said Fox, McBean's medical costs would have been paid out of Medicaid funds rather than from her guardianship.
Between 1996 and 2011, those withdrawals totaled almost $5 million, Fox said.
Northern Trust was replaced as guardian in March 2011 and a special-needs trust was set up. By then the funds in McBean's account had dwindled to about $100,000, Fox said.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of MonarchCare — the Fort Lauderdale corporation currently serving as her guardian — claims McBean is owed $4.6 million, plus about $3 million more in what would have been accrued interest on the money Fox says was unnecessarily paid out.
Northern Trust said it repeatedly over the years raised the issue of placing McBean on Medicaid and setting up a special-needs trust. But Northern Trust was rebuffed every time by McBean's parents, who blamed Medicaid for their daughter's condition, the institution said in a statement.