R&B Great’s Widow Sues Late Singer’s Kids Over Inheritance Battle

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The widow of R&B star Teddy Pendergrass is suing the late singer’s son and daughters over a protracted estate battle she says has left her emotionally drained.

As the lead singer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and later, in a solo career in which he sold millions of albums. Pendergrass helped define a sound that became known as Philly soul.

His life and career were forever changed, however, on the night on March 18, 1982, when a Rolls-Royce Pendergrass was driving smashed into a highway divider and a tree in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

The accident left Pendergrass, who was 31 at the time, paralyzed from the chest down. The singer resumed his career, performing from a wheelchair, but he was dogged by ill health and medical complications from the accident and died due to respiratory failure in 2010.  He was 59.

Immediately after the singer’s death, a probate court said Pendergrass’ will left his entire estate to his wife Joan. But Teddy Pendergrass Jr., fought to have the will tossed out, saying he possessed the sole copy of his father’s legitimate will.

Eventually the Montgomery County Pennsylvania Orphans Court held that the will presented by Teddy Pendergrass Jr. was a fake.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Joan Pendergrass says “the illusion and fantasy” created by Theodore Jr. and his attorneys forced her “to undergo years of turmoil and anguish as her relationship with her late husband was unmercifully scrutinized.”

Joan Pendergrass says the protracted, six-year legal battle cost her $850,000 in legal fees and subjected her to humiliation, diminished reputation, emotional distress and anxiety.

She is suing Theodore Jr. and his attorneys, Robert Racine, Timothy Holman and Jack Rounick; and his stepsisters La Donna Hollerway and Tishia Burnett, and their attorney Glen Ridenour.

It also names notary public Kimberly Joyce Leifheit Cleveland, who, Joan Pendergrass says, certified the fake will and testified to its authenticity in court.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages on multiple claims of frivolous civil litigation.

Bacine declined to comment on the case. Representatives of other parties named in the case did not respond to calls requesting comment of the lawsuit.

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