A Beaumont church had its appeal of a summary judgment finding in favor of a defendant denied in litigation alleging it was swindled out of its $1 million Hurricane Rita settlement.
As previously reported, First United Pentecostal Church (The Anchor of Beaumont) filed a lawsuit Feb. 21, 2012, in Jefferson County District Court against Lamb Law Firm, Kip Lamb, attorney Leigh Parker and former Anchor pastor Lonnie C. Treadway.
Lamb, who represented the church in its Rita suit, was charged with two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property.
The Church contends Parker was involved in a joint venture with Lamb and intentionally made misrepresentations to conceal Lamb’s theft of the funds.
In July 2012, Parker moved for summary judgment but was non-suited before the motion was heard.
The church then amended its petition and again named Parker as a defendant, a move compelling him to reassert his traditional and no-evidence summary judgment motion, court records show.
Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, found in favor of Parker and on Sept. 22, 2014, the church appealed, arguing the court erred because the evidence raises questions of material fact as to the church’s claims against Parker.
On Aug. 13 the Ninth Court of Appeals found the church’s aiding and abetting claim fails, concluding the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Parker as to the church’s claims for breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, joint enterprise and aiding and abetting.
“Parker’s summary judgment evidence demonstrated that he worked for Lamb Law Firm as a contract attorney, had no authority over the firm’s trust account, was not a signatory to the account, and did not learn of the theft until the summer of 2010,” the opinion states.
“Therefore, even if the Church had produced some evidence that Parker’s conduct proximately caused its damages, the Church produced no evidence that Parker had an equal voice or right to control the direction of the enterprise.”
According to the plaintiff's original petition, the church alleges it was awarded $1.09 million from a settlement with Lloyds Insurance Co. in 2006 for damages caused to its property by Hurricane Rita.
Following the settlement, Treadway and the church put the money into a trust account held by the Lamb Law Firm to protect the funds from potential judgment creditors in another pending lawsuit against the church, court records show.
Wade Williams of Lewis and Williams in Galveston and Timothy A. Beeton of Simpson and Beeton in Galveston represent the church.
Parker is represented by attorneys Jon Burmeister and Jamie Matuska.
Trial case No. B191-999
Appeals case No. January 31, 2010413-CV