Austin Associates J.R. Skrabanek and Robert Wall Obtain Declaratory Judgment in Pro Bono Case


October 23, 2015

Austin Associates J.R. Skrabanek and Robert Wall recently worked with Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas and the Austin Bar Association to represent "Bob," a disabled man who was forced by his father to use trust money allotted to him for improper purposes. 

Bob received a significant settlement as a child due to a medical malpractice resulting in his disability. He received the funds from the settlement in a trust when he turned 18. At that time, Bob's father forced him to use the money to make payments on a mortgaged property where both Bob and his father lived. When the money from the trust ran out, Bob's father made Bob leave the property, so Bob lived in a tent in the woods for a year, subsisting on disability payments from the Social Security Administration. In 2014, the SSA cut off Medicaid coverage and benefits, demanding Bob repay more than $30,000 in back benefits. Mr. Skrabanek and Mr. Wall brought suit against Bob's father, and, after discovering Bob’s father had no equity in the property, obtained a declaratory judgment finding that Bob never had a proper ownership interest in the property. The judgment allowed them to dispute the SSA’s benefit denials.

Mr. Wall then used the declaratory judgement to explain to the SSA why it had wrongfully denied Bob benefits. The SSA agreed and reimbursed Bob for 18 months of unpaid benefits and canceled the back pay and penalties previously assessed against Bob. His benefits were reinstated going forward.

This positive result comes just before National Pro Bono Week (October 25-31) and shows how young lawyers can handle cases on their own, especially with the help of organizations like Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. Mr. Wall and Mr. Skrabanek describe the case as one of the highlights of their career.

To learn more about the case, click here to read the article from Austin Lawyer.