Monday, August 04, 2008

Gee's Bend - Franklin case Headed for Jury Trial

Looks as if a settlement in the case of Lucinda Pettway Franklin, plaintiff, vs. Tinwood Ventures, et al, defendants (civil action 07-0438-CG-M) could not be reached. The case is headed for a jury trial.

According to an order dated today by US Magistrate Judge Bert W. Milling, Jr., the parties could not come to a resolution. As a result, the stay on the case has been lifted. "Dispositive motions" are to be filed by August 22, 2008. Final pre-trial disclosures are to be made by mid-December 2008. A final pre-trial conference with Chief Judge Callie V. S. Granade is set for early January 2009. Jury selection is set for the morning of February 3, 2009 in the US Courthouse in Mobile, Alabama.

Here's a quick recap of the Franklin case from a past Black Threads post dated July 24, 2007:
You may recall from the Ben Raines article, "Lucinda Pettway Franklin filed suit ... against the Arnett family, promoters of the nationally recognized Gee's Bend quilt shows, charging that the Arnetts stole the two oldest quilts known to come from Gee's Bend. The quilts, more than 100 years old, were made by Franklin's great-grandmother, Sally Pettway, from worn-out slave clothes and bits of fine fabric cast off from Pettway's masters while she was still a slave."

The Raines article went on to say: "Franklin said Matt Arnett came to her home in Mobile and asked to borrow the quilts for one month so they could be photographed and included in a book about quilts. She remembered he became very excited when he saw the quilts for the first time. That was two years ago. Since that time, Franklin said, Arnett has told her the quilts were destroyed in a fire, accidentally thrown away, ruined in a flood, lost or on his desk ready to be mailed to her. " (A third quilt was also loaned.)

The disputed quilts were later returned to Franklin's attorneys - after the law suit was filed and after a public news conference where appraisals by Holly Anderson and Julie Silber indicated the quilts were not made during slave times or worth very much money.

So - back to the Judge's order. The request by attorneys for the Defendants to dismiss said - in a nut shell - that 1) the appraisals indicated the quilts were not made during slave times, 2) the quilts were not worth enough for the courts to have jurisdiction, and 3) the quilts are now returned.

In the brief submitted by Mrs. Franklin's attorneys, they argue the suit is about an alleged "conversion," which occurred two years ago when the defendant Matt Arnett refused to return the three quilts to Mrs. Franklin and deprived her of the use and enjoyment of the quilts. Mrs. Franklin, as a result, is entitled to compensatory damages. The damages would be based on Mrs. Franklin and the priceless, valuable family history the quilts represented to her - not any appraised value of the quilts. In addition, the brief argues, Mrs. Franklin has a claim for punitive damages. The brief explains that punitive damages are based on the "wrong to the plaintiff" as well as based on "the necessity to prevent similar wrongs from being committed in the future." The combined damages could be an amount over $75,000, the minimum to fall into the jurisdiction of the Court.

Interestingly, the briefs filed by attorneys for Matt Arnett and the other Arnett defendants, "strongly contest" that Mrs. Franklin is entitled to any damages - but does say that the complaint does meet the jurisdictional requirements of the Court.
You can read other posts about the Lucinda Pettway Franklin lawsuit by clicking here. No word yet on the outcome of settlement discussions in the Annie Mae Young or Loretta Pettway. I'm betting these two cases will also go to a jury trial. What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What i find intresting is that the "value" of the quilts decreased once Ms. Pettway Franklin asked for their return