Cabbie whose regular customer left his home to him when he passed away faces huge bill after court o
A cab driver whose regular passenger left him his house over a beer in Wetherspoon's is now facing a £50,000 court bill after the will was overturned. Cabbie Dean Hughes, 34, said his 25 stone passenger, Gary Mendez, 57, wanted to leave him 'everything' because he, for years, ferried him to pubs when other drivers refused to take him because of his weight.
Three months before Mr Mendez died, he made out a will issuing his home to Hughes while sharing a drink in a pub.
Hard-drinking Mr Mendez passed away in August 2016.
The document drafted up during a pint at Wetherspoon's, which was considered "unofficial", cut Mr Mendez's long-term civil partner, Hermes Rodrigues, 45, out completely.
A bitterly fought battle over the house in Eastbourne ensued and has led to the married dad-of-four facing a huge court bill, estimated at over £50,000.
The costs come after Judge David Eaton Turner declared Mr Mendez's Wetherspoon will was invalid. The court heard how Mr Mendez's health was poor and that he had already been drinking when he signed the will in the George Hotel, in Hailsham, in February 2016. The judge said: 'I have great doubts whether Gary had a proper understanding of the contents and effect of the 2016 will.' He added: 'It must be likely that the pint on the table was not his first drink of the day.' The court heard Mr Mendez met his partner in 2001, when he was on a cruise that Mr Rodrigues worked as a steward.
Mr Rodrigues moved to England in 2012 to live with Mr Mendez in his Tollgate Gardens home. Mr Rodrigues told the court his civil partner, who suffered with health problems, was obese, a heavy drinker and had suffered a stroke, was a 'very generous and caring man' who he had 'fallen in love with'. Mr Rodrigues eventually had to provide unstinting care for him as his health deteriorated. In 2013, three years before his death, Mr Mendez made a will, leaving everything he had - including his £160,000 house - to Mr Rodrigues. Mr Rodrigues told the judge at Central London County Court: '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.' The court heard how two days after Mr Mendez's death, cabbie Hughes, revealed that a new will had been written in his favour. The new will suggested that his home should be left to the cab driver as a way of thanks for ferrying him around to pubs in Eastbourne, Hastings and Hailsham for many years. Mr Hughes claimed he had become friends with 25-stone Mr Mendez because many other drivers were not willing to drive him because of his weight.
The wording of a new will was discussed over the phone between the two men and then a day later they met at a pub to sign a written copy in front of witnesses. Mr Rodrigues challenged the will, saying that Mr Mendez was so badly affected by his health and alcohol that he did not fully understand what he was doing. Mr Hughes initially denied the consumption of alcohol during their meeting to sign the will, but later admitted a pint of bitter was bought for Mr Mendez, said the judge. As reported in the Daily Mail, the judge said: 'He had ultimately to accept that alcohol had been purchased, and was on the table, before the 2016 will was signed.' He rejected the claim that the pub will was forged or was signed under the 'undue influence' of the taxi driver. But he said Mr Mendez's mental state was so affected by the ravages of drink and his health conditions that it could not stand. He was 'no longer able to comprehend' the effect of what he was doing, he said. 'In my judgment, 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 Hermes,' he ruled. During the trial last November, Mr Hughes claimed that Mr Rodrigues was a 'freeloader' and denied that he and Mr Mendez were still partners when he died. But the judge said he was convinced that the couple remained civil partners right up to the time of Mr Mendez's death. 'On any basis, he made a substantial contribution to Gary's welfare over a significant period of his life,' he said. He ordered that the house be transferred to Mr Rodrigues and ordered Mr Hughes to pick up 85 per cent of the lawyers' bills in the case. It means Mr Hughes faces a total bill expected to run to over £50,000.
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