Taxi Man Faces Hefty Court Bill Due To Invalid Will

A cabbie, based in East Sussex, who claimed a regular passenger had bequeathed him everything in his Will following his death, was overturned by the Court.

Dean Hughes, 34, alleges Gary Mendez, 57, said he was leaving him ‘everything’ due to spending many years taking him to pubs because other taxi drivers refused owing to his weight.

But Hughes is now facing a £50,000 court bill after the Will was found invalid by a judge.

Mr Mendez had made a Will, which left his house to Hughes, over a pint in a pub three months before he passed away in May 2016.

The document was supposedly drawn up in a Wetherspoon’s pub, bequeathing nothing to Mr Mendez’s long term civil partner, Hermes Rodrigues – which led to a bitter dispute over the house in Eastbourne.

Following Judge David Eaton Turner’s decision, married dad-of-four, Mr Hughes, is being forced to pay a huge court bill, estimated at over £50,000.

The Judge confirmed Mr Mendez was in poor health and had been drinking when he signed the Will in February 2016 at the George Hotel in Hailsham.

Judge David Eaton Turner said:

“I have great doubts whether Gary had a proper understanding of the contents and effect of the 2016 Will.

“It must be likely that the pint on the table was not his first drink of the day.”

The court listened to the story of how Mr Mendez and Mr Rodrigues relationship started. They had met on a cruise in 2001 where Mr Rodrigues was working as a steward.

Their relationship progressed, and in 2003 Mr Mendez went to see his partner in Goa and it was there he convinced him to give up his life on the cruise ship.

Once he worked his notice period, Mr Rodrigues came to live in England to be with Mr Mendez, moving into his Tollgate Gardens home with him in 2012.

Mr Rodrigues told the court he was a ‘very generous and caring man’ who he had ‘fallen in love with’.

As the years went on, Mr Rodrigues ultimately became his carer as his health declined due to being obese, a heavy drinker and he had had a stroke. Mr Rodrigues’ civil partner became more and more forgetful, confused and irritable as time went on.

Consequently, three years before his death, in 2013, Mr Mendez made a Will which was completely different from the one made in 2016. The 2013 Will left everything he had, including his £160,000 house, to Mr Rodrigues.

Mr Rodrigues told the Judge at Central London County Court that

“he told me that it would always be my home whatever happened, even if our relationship broke down.

“I thought we would be together for a very long time. It never occurred to me that he would be gone at such a young age.”

Following the death of his partner, Mr Rodrigues told the court he was informed by the cab driver, Dean Hughes, that there was another Will, only two days after his partner passed away.

The later Will had bequeathed the house to Mr Hughes, who regularly transported him to pubs in Eastbourne, Hastings and Hailsham.

Mr Hughes claimed he was Mr Mendez’s friend and used Hughes’ cab services because other drivers would not take him because of his weight.

Once Mr Mendez told Hughes he was going to leave the house to him, they talked about the wording of the Will on the phone, followed by a meeting at Wetherspoons in February 2016 where the Will was signed and witnessed.

Mr Rodrigues disputed the Will arguing that his partner was so badly impacted by his poor health and alcohol that he simply would not have been able to understand the implications of the Will.

Meanwhile, Mr Hughes had previously confirmed that no alcohol was drunk before the signing of the Will in the pub, but it later transpired that a pint of bitter was bought for Mr Mendez.

Judge David Eaton Turner said:

“He had ultimately to accept that alcohol had been purchased, and was on the table, before the 2016 Will was signed.”

He continued:

“Mr Mendez was a heavy drinker and the evidence showed it was ‘likely that he had drunk earlier that day.”

The Judge refused to believe that the pub Will was forged or that Mr Mendez was coerced in any way by the taxi driver.

But believes that Mr Mendez’s mental state was fragile due to drink problems and bad health conditions, meaning he would not have had the ability to understand his actions.

The judge said he was “no longer able to comprehend” the effect of what he was doing.

He further added:

“In my judgement, Gary, by this time, no longer had a balanced view of the claims to which he ought to give effect, and in particular had lost sight of his previous promise to leave the house to Mr Rodrigues.”

The judge ordered the house to be transferred to Mr Rodrigues and Mr Hughes was forced to pay 85% of the lawyers’ bills which equated to over £50,000.

 As a Will writer, what is your opinion of this case?