Lennette and Mailauni Williams (Rosa Parks’ godchild) targeted in agreement between Henry Ford Health Systems, Trustee Walter Sakowski
Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith to hold hearing Wed. June 8 2pm
Former Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack forced Williams into court despite earlier official’s advice that she could handle her own money
Trustee Walter Sakowski, dozens of others stripped estate with exorbitant fees, feasting off the suffering of a child afflicted with cerebral palsy
HFHS: “No comment” on whether it discriminates against patients of color
By Diane Bukowski
June 7, 2016
DETROIT – A $30 million settlement between Henry Ford Hospital and Lennette Williams, negotiated in 1984 to compensate her and her daughter Mailauni for gross negligence in the child’s 1981 birth, was slashed to $275,000 during a court hearing May 25 in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Muriel Hughes.
Attorneys for Henry Ford Health Systems and Walter Sakowski, Trustee for the questionably legal “Mailauni R. Williams Irrevocable Trust,” agreed to the judgment. Attorney Lee Stevens of the Bier Howlett law firm sent a notice of the “settlement” to Williams to have her sign, then called her and retracted his request, saying her signature was not needed. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Williamssettlementproposal.pdf.)
A separate hearing in Probate Court in front of Judge Terrance Keith is set for tomorrow, Wed. May 8 at 2 p.m., during which Keith will decide how to divvy up the remaining pickings.
Mailauni suffers from severe cerebral palsy and brain damage. Her mother is unable to work a steady job due to permanent damage to her back and stomach. In 1981, HFH doctors refused at first to admit Williams, then refused to perform a Caeserean section, instead filling her full of drugs for 36 hours before Mailauni’s birth.
“I have more respect for a common thief who holds you up in the alley with a gun or a knife than I have for these racist maggots that target you in Probate Court,” said Williams, who is Black.
She has battled judges, lawyers, trustees, guardians, and police for decades, often acting pro se in court, fighting for the right to live peacefully with her daughter in their Grosse Pointe Farms home on the settlement proceeds, without having to beg for every penny of their money from various trustees.
Throughout their battles, Williams has received support from the Rosa and Raymond Parks estate, because Rosa Parks considered Mailauni her godchild, and from activists like Arnetta Grable of the Original Coalition Against Police Brutality and Cornell Squires of We the People for the People.
Former Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack decided early on that a Black woman could not handle her own money, contradicting an opinion in 1986 from Mailauni’s guardian at litem (GAL) that Williams was perfectly capable of doing so.
The GAL recommended that the matter be left out of probate. Instead, probate judges, trustees, guardians and other court-appointed officials have raped the Williams estate for decades.
(To see the many dozens of times Williams has been subjected to demeaning hearings in on just one of three tracks in Probate Court, click on http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Mailauni-Williams-Trust-Probate-Court-Register.pdf.)
Williams compared her situation with that of the Grosse Pointe South High School students who published a racist video calling for the re-enslavement of Black people, but were punished with a simple suspension from school instead of arrest for a hate crime. (See part of video below.)
“The Grosse Pointe cops kicked my door down trying to take Mailauni, and Probate Judge Kathryn George sent me to jail for two weeks for contempt after I tried to speak out in her court in 2014,” Williams recalled. She said the Grosse Pointe community has represented nothing but “racism run amok” for her family, peppering them with racist hate letters and remarks. The City Council has agreed to repair the door the police broke down only if Williams does not sue.
The scene in the courtroom May 25 was no different. Walter Sakowski, trustee for the Mailauni R. Williams Irrevocable Trust, established without Williams’ consent in 1999, attorneys for Henry Ford Health System, and Judge Hughes are all white.
Sakowski testified cheerfully that he and HFHS had reached agreement on the $275,000, and said he would draft an order for Judge Hughes to sign.
“This agreement was not written with my consent,” Williams told Hughes, who responded that she had no say in the matter since she was not the Trustee or party to the trust.
“I’ve been trying to correct that in Probate Court for years,” Williams said. “But the judges, attorneys and guardians have been prejudiced and biased. They’ve conducted numerous ex parte proceedings. They set up the trust that way even though Henry Ford and everyone else knows there was no separation of moneys between me and my daughter in the original settlement.”
She told Judge Hughes she planned to bring litigation challenging the violation of the 1984 settlement by an illegal Trust and by Henry Ford Hospital. Probate Court Judge Keith commended her skills in the litigation she has filed pro se throughout the years, during a hearing Oct. 24, 2014. He also said he had reviewed medical records indicating that Mailauni was expected to survive no longer than two and one half years after her birth.
Mailauni will celebrate her 35th birthday during the Christmas holidays this year, proving, Keith said, that “True love never fails against the greatest obstacles.”
Williams said at that hearing, “I love my daughter and have always taken care of her. I need my daughter and she needs me. I would die for my daughter. She is my hero. There are those who thought the hospital settlement was too much for people of color.”
She added, “I used to take her to the doctor, and he told me I did not have an M.D. But I have something better called love. God was working through me. Mailauni walked at 5, and danced to the music of Michael Jackson.” Mailauni later graduated from Grosse Pointe High School, as attested to by her graduation portrait which Williams proudly displays on the mantel of their living room fireplace.
Throughout hearings in Probate Court, Sakowski and other Trustees have claimed that the bankruptcy of Executive Life Insurance Company in New York, declared in 2012, is responsible for the reduction in funds available for the Williams estate. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Executive-Life-Insurance-Company-Wikipedia.pdf.)
Strangely though, during the 2014 hearing, Sakowski said that under the bankruptcy ruling, there remained $869,000 in the Williams estate. Keith ordered that amount to be rendered forthwith so that Williams could provide needed repairs for her home, repairs that she had begged Sakowski and others for decades. Those repairs, including provision of a stove and refrigerator, have yet to be done.
Where did the other $594,000 go?
VOD contacted Henry Ford Health System spokesperson David Olejarz about the case, and put the following questions to him:
“Why cannot HFHS, with about $5 billion in assets, honor the original 1984 structured settlement agreement despite the bankruptcy of Executive Life of New York?
There has certainly been a lifetime of pain and suffering inflicted on this mother and daughter. Mailauni is now 34, and the settlement was structured with an assumption of a life expectancy for her of 73. How does HFHS expect she and her mother, who cannot work, to survive on $275,000 for the rest of their lives?”
VOD also asked how HFHS was handling any other such structured settlement insured by ELNY, and requested that HFHS specify the race of the patients involved.
“Does HFHS discriminate against its patients of color?” VOD concluded.
HFHS’ response through Olejarz: “Under a non-disclosure agreement, the parties are ordered by the court not to discuss the disposition of this case. We are honoring the court order.” Judge Hughes issued no such gag order during the May 25 hearing. Olejarz likely referred to an order issued in 1984 after the original settlement was reached.