Kansas Court of Appeals Requires Conservatorship and Guardianship for 24-year-old with Traumatic Brain Injury

Kansas Judicial Center (link)

In February 2021, the Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed a district judge’s decision to require a guardianship and conservatorship for Colby Spencer, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury ten years previously.

Colby Spencer suffered a severe brain injury in an accident while riding an ATV in July 2011. Treatment of a subdural hematoma required decompression and a partial lobectomy, and Colby still suffers from the long term effects of his accident. Colby’s parents petitioned to be appointed co-conservators of his estate and were granted conservatorship and guardianship in 2012.

In July 2019, the court denied Colby’s pro se petition to terminate the appointment of his parents as co-conservators. Colby appealed, arguing that there was not clear and convincing evidence supporting the need for a conservatorship. He testified that he buys his own groceries and could pay the expenses for his daily living without help from his parents.

However, mental health professionals evaluated Colby “as having a major neurocognitive disorder resulting in impaired judgment and poor insight and an inability to make reasoned decisions about various matters, including his finances.” Psychological evaluations further reported that he required a structured environment in order to manage his memory deficits, paranoia, and aggression. Much of his testimony displayed signs of his ongoing impairment and behavioral instability, supporting the need for a guardianship.

Colby’s parents also presented evidence that their son required support for his daily living and health care. His mother testified that he could not handle disability paperwork or pay bills without assistance.

The court found this to be clear and convincing evidence that Colby was incapable of managing his own affairs and concluded that “over the long run no person or entity could effectively deal with Colby in assisting him in the management of his affairs short of a conservatorship maintained by his parents — the only persons so vested in his well-being as to be willing and able to put up with the outward manifestations of his injury.” Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s decision to deny Colby’s petition to terminate his parents’ guardianship.

Citation: Matter of Conservatorship of Spencer, 480 P.3d 810 (Kan. Ct. App. 2021)

Key words: Kansas, traumatic brain injury, TBI, mental health, guardianship

This post is the 96th post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.

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at Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

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