On Wednesday a Lamar County jury returned a $1.5 million verdict in Hinton v. Rolison. The case involved a partnership in a car dealership.

Here is the Complaint.

Here is the Verdict.

Lici Beveridge’s article in the Hattiesburg American reported on the verdict here. From the article:

Hinton claimed in his lawsuit that he was an equal partner in the business, having purchased, financed and sold cars on behalf of the business. 

Rolison denied the partnership ever existed and claimed Hinton did nothing for the business, attorney Clark Hicks said in an email. Hicks and Lane Dossett of Hicks’ law firm represented Hinton at trial.

Rolison instead argued that Hinton was only a car wholesaler from whom he purchased cars. 

Hinton filed a lawsuit against Rolison in 2013, saying Rolison refused to give him his share of the profits and would not give him access to business records.

The partnership was based on a handshake agreement, Hicks said, with no contract in writing. However, the men had a lease agreement that stated the men were equal partners.

Rolison argued the lease agreement was a forgery.

The parties have a long and storied litigation history.  In 2012, Hinton discovered that Rolison had drafted and recorded a deed transferring the car lot out of Hinton’s children’s names to Rolison.  A lawsuit was filed in the Lamar County Chancery Court to set aside the deed, which resulted in a settlement.  However, Hinton remained obligated on the mortgage, which he could not refinance because title was not in his name.  The property proceeded to a foreclosure sale.  Hinton and Rolison’s attorneys both appeared at the foreclosure sale.  The courthouse auction resulted in a large surplus, with Rolison’s attorneys ultimately winning the bid.

A second lawsuit was filed between Hinton and Rolison over ownership of the surplus.  Hinton claimed ownership as the obligated party under the deed of trust and note and Rolison claimed ownership as the title owner of the property.  This case was appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court and decided as an issue of first impression in Hinton v. Rolison, 175 So.3d 1281 (Miss. 2015).  Rolison prevailed and took the surplus.

Before the settlement of the land dispute, Hinton filed a third lawsuit against Rolison in the Lamar County Circuit Court over the partnership dispute.  Hinton claimed Rolison squeezed him out of the Lincoln Road Autoplex business, in which he was an equal partner.  Rolison filed a 12(b)(6) motion seeking to dismiss the Circuit Court partnership dispute claiming that the settlement of the land dispute also settled the business dispute. The Court agreed and dismissed the case.  But the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed in Hinton v. Rolison, 175 So.3d 1252 (Miss. 2015), finding that the settlement agreement expressly excluded the business dispute.

Before the trial the Plaintiff made a $750,000 settlement offer, but the Defendant did not respond.

Lane Dossett with Hicks Law Firm, PLLC tried the case for the Plaintiff. Jennifer Johnson and Carroll Ingram of the Ingram Law Firm in Hattiesburg and John Corlew of Corlew, Mumford and Smith tried the case for the Defendant.

Circuit Judge Claiborne “Buddy” McDonald presided.

My Take:

Based on the reporting, the case boiled down to a swearing match. Sounds like the Plaintiff correctly valued a swearing match for settlement purposes and the Defendant wanted to gamble.