The only living child of the late novelist Taylor Caldwell has agreed to drop four lawsuits against her former stepfather in return for $650,000, some of her mother's jewelry and a pen-and-ink drawing of herself, attorneys in the case said Thursday.
After two days of testimony during a jury trial in Stamford, Conn., Mary M. "Peggy" Fried, 69, of Eggertsville also transferred her uncalculated interests in her mother's literary properties to a charitable foundation created years ago by the novelist to help young writers.
The settlement of the legal battle against M. Robert Prestie, 72, the writer's fourth husband, leaves Mrs. Fried disinherited under a 1980 will drafted by her mother. It covers an estate valued for tax purposes at a minimum of $2.1 million, according to attorneys in the case.
The $650,000 settlement will come from the $1.2 million sale of her mother's former Greenwich, Conn., mansion. The proceeds of the house sale were not included in the Caldwell estate because Mrs. Fried contested the purchase of the house by her ailing mother. Prestie gets the remaining $550,000 in the sale of the house.
An internationally acclaimed author of 39 books, Taylor Caldwell, born Janet Taylor Caldwell in Manchester, England, was a Buffalo-area resident from early childhood until she was 80 years old.
A decision by Prestie, backed by the ailing novelist, to move her to Greenwich in 1980 while she was still recovering from a debilitating stroke, sparked a decade-long legal battle.
The novelist, who married Prestie in 1978, died in Greenwich in August 1985 just days before her 85th birthday. Mrs. Fried is the only child of Ms. Caldwell's first marriage. A second Caldwell child, a daughter born of the novelist's second marriage, died in the late 1970s.
The 1980 will created lifetime income for Prestie and included a bequest to his son by a previous marriage, with the rest of the funds going to the novelist's charitable foundation, the Taylor Caldwell Memorial Foundation.
Seeley Hubbard, Prestie's Connecticut lawyer, and Patricia Carpenter, Mrs. Fried's Connecticut lawyer, confirmed that Mrs. Fried's financial settlement will come out of the 1989 mansion sale.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge John Ryan and the jury had heard testimony in the case Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mrs. Fried declined to comment. She had been a beneficiary of a 1978 will drafted by her mother.
Prestie, who remarried and moved to Palm Springs, Calif., after the novelist's death, could not be reached to comment.
Ms. Carpenter and Carl Green, Mrs. Fried's chief Buffalo lawyer, said their client was pleased with the resolution of the legal battle, which began in 1980 when attorneys for Mrs. Fried were several hours late in obtaining court orders to try to stop Prestie from flying the ailing novelist from Buffalo.
"It's been a sad chapter in her life, but it has ended on a happy note," Green said of Mrs. Fried.
Arnold Weiss, Prestie's Buffalo lawyer, said he felt the testimony before Ryan and the jury about Miss Caldwell's mental competence in the last years of her life by Dr. Walter Camp, the Connecticut neurologist who treated Miss Caldwell, prompted Mrs. Fried to agree to settle the case.
Camp, according to his trial testimony, called the novelist a "strong-willed woman, even after the stroke."
Ms. Carpenter said Prestie has agreed to let representatives of Mrs. Fried go to California to search the effects of the novelist for a pen-and-ink sketch of Mrs. Fried that her mother had commissioned decades ago.
Mrs. Fried wants the sketch for "sentimental reasons," Ms. Carpenter said.
The jewelry Mrs. Fried will get under the settlement has been valued for tax purposes at $78,000, her attorneys said.
Because of the settlement, Mrs. Fried dropped four lawsuits over the Greenwich mansion and several California condominiums, the probate of her mother's last will and a $5,000-a month-spousal allowance Prestie had received during the probate of the will in Connecticut.
Mrs. Fried, wife of Buffalo-area businessman Gerald Fried, will never know the true size of her mother's overall estate, according to her lawyers.