A WOMAN of 85 whose son is suing her for a share of the family cheese-making business has said she never made any promises about leaving it to her three sons.
In the Supreme Court in Melbourne yesterday, Carmella Montalto glared at her youngest son, Giuseppe, 60, as she stood in the witness box waiting to give evidence.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mrs Montalto said that after migrating from Sicily in 1952, her husband, Mauro, worked as a butcher while she made ricotta. The cheese business soon expanded and they established a factory.
Mrs Montalto denied claims by Giuseppe that since he was a boy she had told him the children had to pull their weight in the business because it would be shared between the brothers one day. ''How could I reason with a boy of nine or 10?'' she said.
Asked again whether she had made the promise, she said: ''I never said that.''
Mrs Montalto said that since he left school, her middle son, Tomaso, 63, had worked every day at the factory, Floridia Cheese, which she and her husband later gave to him.
She disputed claims by Giuseppe that he did most of the hard physical labour for 30 years, saying ''there wasn't much work on the farms'' for him to do. She said she and her husband did much of the work and also employed farmhands.
Giuseppe Montalto is suing his parents and his brothers Antonio, 67, and Tomaso for a share of the business, which has real estate assets valued at more than $30 million.
He is further claiming that Antonio exercised ''undue influence'' over his frail and elderly parents by having himself appointed trustee of a family property trust with assets of more than $5 million.
Giuseppe, who has received a $178,000 Brunswick shop and a 30-hectare Whittlesea property from his parents, said they had not fairly divided their business assets.
He suspected he would not be looked after in their will. ''I don't think I would've been treated fairly,'' he said. ''I've got no faith in them.''
Mrs Montalto now lives in a retirement home in Epping with her husband, who was connected to oxygen in court. The trial before Justice Hartley Hansen continues.
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