I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Wilson files expert reports explaining what he thought Scruggs owed him and why

There’s been an interesting document dump for folks interested in understanding the ins-and-outs of the Wilson v. Scruggs litigation, one that, given recent settlements, I was wondering if we’d ever get to see.  What we got today were expert reports from Wilson’s side about how they would have calculated Wilson’s damages, from both his claim for his share of asbestos fees and his claim to the tobacco fees.

Recall that Wilson’s claim against Scruggs was two-fold:  First, he alleged that he had an agreement with Scruggs to split attorneys fees from asbestos cases from their time as joint venturers.   There was a dispute about how much was owed and how to calculate it, but there was no dispute that Scruggs owed Wilson money from the payouts-over-time from asbestos fees.  Second, he alleged that Scruggs was in the beginning setting that money aside, but that as it went along, he used some or all of the money to finance the expenses in the tobacco litigation.  For that, he argued that the funds should be traced into their use in the tobacco litigation, and Wilson should get some share of Scruggs’s tobacco bonanza because of that use of Wilson’s money.

The case before Judge DeLaughter was about the first claim; the second claim was in a separate lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi.  The kicker was that, for the federal court claim to have any merit, there had to be a money judgment in the case before Judge DeLaughter.  Ultimately, what Scruggs, Balducci, and Langston were trying to accomplish with an off the record assist from Ed Peters was a ruling that Wilson wasn’t entitled to anything in the first claim; this, their theory apparently was, would cut off both punitive damages before Judge DeLaughter and the federal court constructive trust suit.

Two parts of that theory I’ve never been able to get my mind around were these:  First, it was apparently conceded that Scruggs really did owe something, and in the run-up to the trial, he apparently really did pay something, having held off paying for over a decade.  That certainly wouldn’t cut off punitive damages for wrongful refusal to pay under Mississippi’s bad faith cases, and I don’t see how it would (in and of itself) cut off the constructive trust claim.  But if you read the available hearing transcripts in the case before DeLaughter, it seems clear that Balducci and DeLaughter, both, seemed of the view that at least the punitive damages claim would be cut off if DeLaughter came up with a zero as the number owed after what Scruggs had already paid.   There’s something else going on with the parts of the case that are still under seal that I wonder about here.

While on the subject of those expert reports, I’m reminded of the moment at the end of the state court proceedings where Balducci had his own report in a sealed envelope and somehow was getting Judge DeLaughter to take it seriously without ever looking at it.

I thought Wilson’s recent settlement of the claims with Scruggs would mean that none of this would ever see light, figuring the claims against remaining defendants (e.g. Patterson, Peters and Balducci– I think Langston has also settled) would never bring this out.  What I didn’t know is that Wilson has preserved his claim against the money Peters surrendered to the federal government and apparently intends to prove both his asbestos and tobacco claims to establish his claim upon Peters’s fee.  And so, today, Wilson’s lawyer, Vickie Slater, produced two expert reports from 2004 outlining what her experts thought Scruggs owed Wilson.  The second report also responds to the reports from Scruggs’s own expert.

With that introduction, I’m going to go ahead and post the reports; I may report back later about what I learned from them.  Meanwhile, the comments are available for anyone else’s thoughts. It’s interesting stuff.  Here’s Wilson’s first expert opinion and Wilson’s second expert opinion

Meanwhile, the Mississippi State Bar got around to asking for disbarment of Bobby DeLaughter today, based upon his guilty plea.  Here’s the Daily Journal story about that.

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