Terrence Taylor suffered severe burns as a child and reached a settlement with a space-heater manufacturer that had a lifetime expected payout of $31.5 million, but after numerous sales from his structured settlement at a fraction of the value, he is broke. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Rex Muller has had lots of tenants over the years, but none quite like Terrence Taylor. He moved into a house miles outside of town but couldn’t drive. He was 30 years old but played with toy cars. His face was badly disfigured by burns, but attractive women often accompanied him. Muller nonetheless trusted Taylor more than most. He had lots of money…
The answer to that question lay 250 miles south, along the southern maw of the Chesapeake Bay, inside the Portsmouth Circuit Courthouse. For more than a decade, this Virginia institution has operated much like an assembly line for the secretive industry of structured-settlement purchasing. Over the past 15 years, one lawyer has filed thousands of cases — far more than anywhere else in the state — at the courthouse, where almost all of them have been approved.
When four companies struck 10 deals with Terrence Taylor in two years, they hired Portsmouth lawyer Stephen E. Heretick. Nine of those deals were then assigned to now-retired Portsmouth judge Dean W. Sword, the authority tasked with deciding such cases. And Sword approved every one, putting five of the deals under seal.
In all, according to Taylor’s bank records and court documents, the burn survivor sold $11 million of his structured settlement — which had a present value of about $8.5 million — for roughly $1.4 million, or 16 cents on the present dollar. He has sued the companies, focusing on a South Florida firm named Structured Asset Funding, which did six deals with him.
“If you look at what is considered a fair profit margin in other industries, I don’t think anyone is making these terms,” said Larsen, former president of the National Structured Settlements Trade Association.
Some of the deals were even more questionable.
Source : Washington Post