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Sheppard Mullin Secures Win In Elder Abuse Case


Following a 7-week trial in San Mateo Superior Court in the fall of 2021, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP won a major victory in a financial elder abuse case on March 21, 2022. The ruling awarded the firm’s client (Debra Dolch, a private, professional fiduciary) approximately $8.5 million in compensatory damages, $16 million in double damages, title to a $6 million property in Hillsborough, CA, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Background on the Case

The case revolved around Thea Bacon, an elderly woman who had significant wealth and no living blood relatives.  James Sykes, who called himself a designer and holistic healer, entered Bacon’s life shortly after her husband Roger Bacon died in 1984. Bacon and Sykes maintained a professional and social relationship for more than two decades, during which time Sykes acquired title outright to Bacon’s Hillsborough home, as well as millions of dollars in cash.  After concerns were raised about Bacon’s isolation and capacity, Debra Dolch was appointed Bacon’s conservator.  During the course of the litigation, Dolch obtained a restraining order preventing Sykes from having any contact with Bacon or her property.  At trial, evidence was presented establishing that Sykes isolated, unduly influenced, and financially abused Bacon for many years which had enabled him to misappropriate Bacon’s substantial assets.

The Sheppard Mullin team was led by partner Steve Braccini and special counsel Wendy Krog and included associates Kendal Fletcher and Meghan McCormick.

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