Breach-of-contract case over
loan-default funds nets $1.7 million
breach-of-contract case being tried this week in federal
court in Little Rock resulted in a $1.7 million jury verdict
late Friday afternoon against Kennedy Funding Inc. of New
verdict includes $675,000 plus interest in compensatory
damages and $1 million in punitive damages to be paid to
Virgil W. Shelton, 84, who owned Rest In Peace Memorial
Gardens, a perpetual-care cemetery in Hensley, for more than
20 years before he sold it in 1992.
Shelton’s attorney, Morgan “Chip” Welch of North Little
Rock, said Shelton sold the cemetery to Will Acklin, who,
six or seven years later when suffering financial
difficulties, turned to Kennedy Funding for a loan.
order to effectuate the loan it was necessary for the lender
to have assurance that [Shelton] would not exercise his
right to foreclose on the property,” according to court
documents show that Kennedy Funding and Acklin negotiated an
agreement in which Kennedy Funding promised to establish an
escrow account to pay Shelton in full if Acklin defaulted.
“in detrimental reliance on the agreement,” Shelton agreed
not to exercise any foreclosure rights in exchange for
Kennedy Funding’s setting aside $675,000 to guarantee
payment to Shelton in the event of default.
funds, however, were not aside as promised. Meanwhile,
Acklin defaulted on the loan in the summer of 2001.
said Shelton demanded he be paid the $675,000 that was to
have been reserved, only to learn that Kennedy had never
funded the escrow account as promised.
case was originally tried in 2006 before the late U.S.
District Judge George Howard Jr., but a settlement was
reached before the case was handed over to the jury for
case was later reinstated when the settlement fell through.
After Howard’s death, the case was reassigned to U.S.
District Judge Bill Wilson Jr., who presided over this
This article was published on page 13
of the Saturday, March 07, 2009 edition in the Arkansas
$2.55 Million VERDICT IN
AON RISK CASE
A Pulaski County Circuit Court jury
awarded a Little Rock man over $2.55 million dollars in
allegedly unpaid salary and commissions against Aon Risk
Services of Arkansas, Inc. and Aon Risk Services of Illinois,
Inc., subsidiaries of the insurance conglomerate and brokerage
giant, Aon Corporation of America, Inc.
John M. Meadors, 63, of Little Rock,
brought suit against the companies alleging that he had been
underpaid or shorted when he brought in major accounts to the
Arkansas and Illinois Aon companies. The biggest sale alleged
had to do with a sale to Dillard Stores for employee benefits
packages for the use of over 20,000 Dillard’s employees. Meadors
successfully brokered the entire 5-year Dillard’s contract
through Aon’s Combined Insurance subsidiary.
The bulk of the award [2.5 million
dollars] was against Aon Risk Services of Arkansas relating to
unpaid salary and transactions brokered by Meadors through that
office for Dillard’s, J.B. Hunt and Pace Industries.
The jury also awarded a separate
verdict in Meador’s favor against Aon Risk Services of Illinois
for $44,500. That transaction had to do with business Meadors
claimed he produced for that company.
arguments by Meador’s attorney, Morgan E. “Chip” Welch and Aon
Risk Services’ lawyer, Tony Wilcox of Jonesboro, the jury
deliberated 39 minutes and delivered their decision to Circuit
Judge Tim Fox.
$14 Million VERDICT IN
CONAGRA DISCRIMINATION CASE
A federal court jury
awarded a Smackover man more than $14 million Thursday in a
lawsuit claiming race discrimination and “hostile” working
George Williams, 53,
brought suit against ConAgra Poultry of El Dorado after he was
terminated in April 2001 after 32 years as a supervisor with the
African-American, claimed he was the victim of a discriminatory
discharge and had been subjected to a hostile environment for much
of the time he worked at the plant.
The jury, after hearing
testimony for four days, deliberated two-and-a-half hours before
awarding Williams $120,210 in lost wages and benefits on the
discrimination charge and $807,578 for mental anguish associated
with the termination. The jury also awarded $6.1 million in
punitive damages against ConAgra on the discharge claim.
On the racially hostile
environment claim, the jury awarded Williams compensatory damages
of $1 million and punitive damages of $6.1 million.
ConAgra spokesman Bob
McKeon said, “This award is unjustified and exorbitant. We
strongly disagree with the verdict and will pursue all legal
options and appeal if necessary.”
Williams was represented
by Morgan E. “Chip” Welch and Lloyd W. “Tre” Kitchens of
the Eubanks Welch Baker & Schulze firm of Little Rock.
During the trial presided
over by U.S. District Court Judge Harry Barnes, Welch said the
jury heard testimony about working conditions at ConAgra,
including testimony from a former employee who sued and won a
hostile environment case against the company last year.
Williams’ lawyers, in
their closing arguments, said ConAgra had its chance to clean up a
vicious cycle of hostile attitudes toward black employees but
instead employed a system of “don’t ask, don’t tell”
concerning complaints made to management.
$737,500 VERDICT IN REAR-END COLLISION
SUMMARY: A Monroe County jury in Clarendon, Arkansas, awarded Barbara Tinsley, aged 40, of Alpena, Carroll County, Arkansas $737,500.00 in damages sustained in a rear-end collision accident which occurred on October 11, 1996.
The defendant in the case was Flower Distributors, Inc. d/b/a Southern Wholesale Florists, Inc., of North Little Rock. The jury verdict followed two days of trial.
At the beginning of the trial, Flower Distributors admitted liability for the actions of their delivery driver, Daniel Opthoff. Witnesses testified that Opthoff struck the rear of the Tinsley vehicle as it was stopped waiting to turn at Highway 79 and 5th Street in Clarendon. Opthoff, though a defendant in the case, did not appear at trial.
Tinsley asked the jury for damages related to two ruptured disks and an impairment rating from her orthopedic surgeon.
CASE NAME / NUMBER:
Tinsley V. Flower Distributing, Inc., D/B/A
Southern Wholesale Florists; Monroe Circuit # 99-68(Y)
COURT: Hon. Harvey Yates, Circuit Judge
EXPERTS: Dr. Harold Chakales testified concerning Orthopedic injuries, ruptured discs and future surgery, assigning a 25% impairment; Dr. William Ackerman testified as to chronic pain syndrome and Dr. Charles Venus, a consulting economist, testified as to lost future wages and future employability.
DATE TRIED: The case was tried to a jury April 9-10, 2002.
REPORTING COUNSEL: Morgan "Chip" Welch and Darryl "Chip" Baker, of Eubanks, Welch, Baker & Schulze of Little Rock.
$337,000 VERDICT IN CONAGRA RACE DISCRIMINATION CASE
SUMMARY: A U.S. District Court jury found in favor of John Johnican and against ConAgra Poultry on the fourth day of a race discrimination trial and awarded $275,000 damages. The jury found that Johnican, age 31, of El Dorado, had been discriminated against and subjected to a "hostile environment" in the Maintenance Department at ConAgra, where he worked as a Maintenance Technician from 1994 to 1999.
The jury awarded $25,000 compensatory damages for emotional distress and $250,000 punitive damages after deliberating three and a half hours. Johnican's attorneys argued that ConAgra's treatment was part of a pattern and practice of discrimination which had gone on for several years. To that amount, the
District Judge added $52,229.41 in attorneys' fees and costs, for a total verdict of $327,229.41.
Reportedly, the verdict was the first race discrimination verdict against ConAgra in El Dorado.
CASE NAME / NUMBER: John Johnican v. ConAgra Poultry Company; Case No. Cv00-1091
COURT: USDC [Western]- Hon. Harry Barnes
EXPERTS: Dr. Charles Venus, a consulting economist, testified.
DATE TRIED: The case was tried to a jury March 4-7, 2002.
REPORTING COUNSEL: Morgan "Chip" Welch and Lloyd "Tré" Kitchens, of Eubanks, Welch, Baker & Schulze of Little Rock.
$51,000 VERDICT IN DEFECTIVE HARDWOOD FLOOR CASE
SUMMARY: For $7,000, Steve and Norma Hoffman purchased a Hartco Hardwood Floor product for part of their $750,000 home in Canal Pointe in Little Rock. The flooring was defective and warped and could not be corrected. The flooring company and the installed refused to pay cost-of-repair.
Suit was filed on multiple warranty and product theories, but the matter ultimately went to the jury in warranty. After a three day trial, the jury found Hartco had not breached its express warranty but did find the company breached the implied warranty of merchantability or implied warrant of fitness and gave judgment for the Plaintiffs with damages totaling $23,000.
To that amount, the Trial Judge awarded $28,268.05 in attorneys' fees and costs under the contract statute for a total award of $51,268.05.
CASE NAME / NUMBER: Hoffman v. Hartco Flooring Company, et. al., Pulaski Circuit # CIV 00-96
COURT: Hon. Chris Piazza, Circuit Judge
EXPERTS: Tom Firstl, an attorney and appraiser, testified as to the "stigma" [diminished value] to the house.
DATE TRIED: The case was tried to a jury, December 10-11, 2001.
REPORTING COUNSEL: Morgan "Chip" Welch and Lloyd "Tre" Kitchens --Eubanks, Welch, Baker & Schulze of Little Rock.
$787,000 VERDICT IN DILLARD'S AGE CASE
SUMMARY: At the time of his termination, Dorman Hartley was 64 years old. Hartley had over 46 years experience in Department Store retailing. He was the second oldest store manager in the Arkansas Division of Dillard's, which consists of some 70-85 stores in 8 states. For the ten years immediately prior to his termination, Hartley had been the Manager of the McCain Mall store, which produced some of the highest dollar volumes in gross sales and profit in the Arkansas Division.
Throughout Mr. Hartley's tenure, the McCain Store always made a profit. The store made Dillard's over $58 million in profit under Mr. Hartley's management. Though concededly below his "banner year" [in 1995], Hartley's last two full years, 1997 and 1998, netted Dillard income ranging between five (1998) to six point seven million (1997) dollars. During the same period, many of the Arkansas Division stores did not make any income. In fact some, such as the Mall of Memphis Store, lost over one million dollars in 1999. Younger store managers heading the unprofitable stores were not fired. Only one other manager was removed for sales performance other than Mr. Hartley and that manager [aged 49] was offered transfer as manager to another Dillard store in lieu of demotion or termination.
Mr. Hartley had been out of the store on vacation in August 1999. He was fired his first day back [ostensibly for store performance and for an untidy store]. His Assistant manager, aged 34 [who had been left in charge during Mr. Hartley's absence], was not disciplined. A younger man, aged 32 [half Mr. Hartley's age exactly], replaced Mr. Hartley.
The Jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, Hartley, finding 'willful' Age Discrimination and assessing back pay at $237,669.00. The interrogatory answer finding willfulness resulted in doubling the back pay to $$475,338.00. To that figure, the Court awarded 'front pay' or future lost wages of $246,774.05 and attorney's fees & costs of $54,932.00 and $10,336.86, increasing the award to $787,380.91 total.
CASE NAME / NUMBER: Hartley v. Dillard's, Inc. NO. LR-CIV-2000-289
COURT: USDC [Eastern]- Hon. Wm. R. Wilson
DEMAND: Dillard's declined to discuss settlement.
EXPERTS: Dr. Charles Venus, a consulting economist, testified as to front pay values, trends in the department store industry and future employability.
DATE TRIED: The case was tried to a jury September 24-28, 2001.
REPORTING COUNSEL: Morgan E. "Chip" Welch and Gerry Schulze -- Eubanks, Welch, Baker & Schulze of Little Rock.