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Evans Trial: Closing arguments

By Amy McCullough

NOTE: Do not expect this post to make sense unless you’ve done a lot of prior reading.

Previous posts this week: “Clear and convincing evidence?” and “He worked for us, but he didn’t really.”

The Evans bankruptcy court trial concluded today with four hours of closing arguments. Closing briefs are due May 6.

Interesting points:

• Representing the Bank of Forest, personal injury attorney William Liston III compared the Evans situation to a case he litigated involving a client who got scammed while buying a used Camaro. The salesman told the buyer the car hadn’t been wrecked “to his knowledge.” His defense was that he did not intentionally lie. The jury didn’t buy it.

• More discussion over the words “representation” and “authority” by both sides.

• Bank of Forest/Liston criticized the title insurance company model of profiting from using approved attorneys, as opposed to agents, to certify titles and then “try(ing) on the back end to disclaim liability when that system goes awry.”

• Heritage Bank, which made a loan of more than $780,000 to Chris Evans but was paid more than $430,000 by Mississippi Valley Title for its claim, maintained that it deserved more money and made complaints about language in paragraphs 8A and 8B of the title policy that are too boring and tedious to discuss here, even if a case of Red Bull were supplied. The bank also discussed its bad faith claim.

• Mississippi Valley, via attorney Bill Brabec, said it acted prudently and followed policy. The court could decide whether Valley owed Heritage more money, but Valley definitely didn’t act in bad faith, as they had no intent to do wrong. They paid $430,000 without reservation.

• Regarding Bank of Forest’s tort claim, Brabec said the bank did not succeed under a previous contractual claim, so it hired a couple really small attorneys (Liston and Lawrence Deas) to try to get around contractual defenses. Under Mississippi law, you can’t turn a contract claim into a tort claim, expect under bad faith, which is not being alleged here, he said.

• Valley’s other attorney in the case, Scott Jones, pointed out that 38 other states had addressed whether tort liability applies to title insurance companies. The issue has not to this point been ruled on in any form or fashion in Mississippi. Unlike some states, there is no statute in Mississippi requiring title insurance companies to search title for each commitment (which is the work Charles Evans performed for the company).

• Brabec faults the Bank of Forest for giving Chris Evans a $450,000 loan without then ensuring the appropriate deed of trust was vested in the proper party (White Oaks Development).

• He ended by saying the biggest loser in the case is Valley, which has spent millions to fix problems ensuing from Evans’ fraudulent activities. “They’ve paid, and they’ve paid, and they’ve paid. But there’s some things they just don’t owe.”


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About Amy McCullough

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