Letter of October 17, 1979

HILL & HANSEN
A Law Corporation
722 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, California 94111

October 17, 1979

Donald & Bonnie Beck
P.O. Box 1012
Ukiah, CA 95482

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Beck:

As you are aware this firm is representing you on a claim for wrongful death/breach of contract against the People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ. The People’s Temple is in the process of being dissolved under the procedure required by the California Code of Corporations. By Court order, its affairs have been placed in the hands of a Receiver, who is attempting to recover money and other assets of the Temple. The Receiver is also reviewing claims filed against the Temple and will make recommendations as to whether each claim should be granted, and if it is granted, what amount should be paid. The Receiver’s recommendation will be made without regard to the assets actually available to the Temple. The recommendation must be approved by the Court, and the hearing process will be established for those claimants who are unwilling to consent to the Receiver’s recommendations.

At the present time, 679 claims have been filed against the Temple seeking a total of more than $1.7 billion. While many of these claims may be inflated in value, it is clear that the Receiver will never be able to marshal on behalf of the Temple assets representing even three percent of the face amount of the claims. Therefore, it is probable that all claims that are allowed will have to share pro rata in a relatively small fund of money.

On your behalf, this office has undertaken to file a claim against the Temple in the Receivership proceedings. We are currently negotiating with attorneys for the Receiver to enter into a stipulation that would toll the statute of limitations on each claim which we have filed. This would protect your legal rights against the Temple only.

As you have been told in interviews with Mr. Hill and others at our office, we are not undertaking to represent you in any action against any individuals such as Charles Garry, Mark Lane, The Estate of Leo Ryan or against any local or state governmental entity. We express no opinion on the likelihood of the success of an action brought against any such individual or governmental entity. But you should know that we are not going to represent you or do anything on your behalf with respect to such potential defendants.

Under California law, the time for commencing a legal action against an individual or partnership or corporation for personal injury or wrongful death is one year. The one-year statute of limitations for deaths occurring in the People’s Temple tragedy expires on November 19, 1979. After that date, any action against such individuals may be barred forever.

If what you are reading in this letter does not comport with your understanding of the nature of our representation of you, or if it is your desire to pursue an action against any person or entity other than the People’s Temple, then you should contact this office immediately. Failure to do so may result in your forfeiting forever the right to pursue an action against any other person or entity.

Very truly yours,
[signed] David H. Schwartz
DAVID H. SCHWARTZ
For HILL & HANSEN
A Law Corporation

P.S. In 45-60 days we expect to receive notification of the Receiver’s recommendations for allowing or disallowing your claim. We will then have 30 days within which to decide whether to accept or contest the Receiver’s recommendation. We will appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and your cooperation in meeting with us so that we may discuss which course of action will be in your best interest.

Originally posted on May 24th, 2013.

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