Court Rules Hospital Can Keep Late Heiress’s $3.5 Million Manet Painting

Huguette Clark. Photo: AP.
Huguette Clark. Photo: AP.

Huguette Clark.
Photo: AP.

A Manhattan judge has ruled in favor of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, allowing the hospital to keep $4 million in donations, including an Édouard Manet painting, given by the late heiress Huguette Clark. Her relatives had sued, claiming Clark was manipulated into giving away her fortune.

Clark spent the last two decades of her life at Beth Israel. After an operation in 1992, she opted to remain under the institution’s care, rather than returning home. She died in 2011, at 104 years old.

During her residency at the hospital, staff reportedly approached her several times asking for donations. According to documents revealed at the trial, staff spent time indulging Clark’s unusual habits, such as playing with dolls and watching children’s television shows, in the hopes of encouraging a substantial donation.

Clark’s family argued that she was tricked into giving away her fortune, and that she did not have the mental capacity to make financial decisions at the time. Hospital officials denied such claims, calling Clark sharp and intelligent, despite her eccentricities.

In addition to several cash gifts totaling $940,000, Clark donated the 1864 Manet painting, Pivoines dans une bouteille (Peonies in a Bottle), to the hospital in 2002. It later fetched $3.5 million at Christie’s New York evening sale.

In her ruling Judge Nora S. Anderson found that the statute of limitations had expired, so it was too late for the estate to contest the donations; they would have had to have filed its claim within three years of the last gift, made in October 2002.

In a separate ruling, however, Anderson allowed the estate to pursue similar claims against two of the doctors and one of the nurses that had cared for her.

“We are gratified by the dismissal of the meritless claims against the hospital,” the hospital’s lawyer, Marvin Wexler, told the New York Times.

Don’t feel too bad for Clark’s distant relatives, however. They reportedly still received $34.5 million—after taxes.

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