780 F.3d 856 (8th Cir. 2015), 13-3066, Pepper v. Whitehead
|Citation:||780 F.3d 856|
|Opinion Judge:||WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||Estate of Nell G. Pepper, by the administrator for both Estates, Norma Deeble; Estate of Sterling Gary Pepper, by the administrator for both Estates, Norma Deeble, Plaintiffs - Appellants v. Nancy Pease Whitehead; Pease Family Partnership, Defendants - Appellees|
|Attorney:||For Estate of Nell G. Pepper, by the administrator for both Estates, Norma Deeble, Estate of Sterling Gary Pepper, by the administrator for both Estates, Norma Deeble, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Matthew Grant Sease, Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, IA. For Nancy Pease Whitehead, Pease Family Partnership, ...|
|Judge Panel:||Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||March 09, 2015|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit|
Pepper, who suffered from cerebral palsy, owned an extensive collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia as a result of his friendship with Elvis. When he moved into a nursing home in 1978, he told Nancy to “keep it.” Nancy, a nurse and a devoted Elvis fan, had cared for Pepper after the death of his father until he went into the nursing home. Nancy was not compensated for her efforts. Gary died two... (see full summary)
Submitted December 10, 2014
Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines.
Before us once again is the controversy regarding the ownership of the collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia amassed by the late Sterling Gary Pepper, Jr.
In Estate of Pepper v. Whitehead, 686 F.3d 658 (8th Cir. 2012), we set forth at length the factual and procedural background of this litigation, reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings. What follows here is a summary of the factual and procedural history set forth in our earlier opinion and an account of the evidence presented at the trial that was held on remand.
Sterling Gary Pepper, Jr. (Gary) owned an extensive collection of Elvis Presley (Elvis) memorabilia. When he moved into a nursing home in 1978, he told Nancy Pease Whitehead (Nancy) to " keep it." Gary died two years later. Nancy and her sister maintained the collection until 2009, when the Pease Family Partnership (the Partnership) put it up for auction, at which it sold on October 19, 2009, for more than $250,000.
The Estate of Nell G. Pepper and the Estate of Sterling Gary Pepper (the Estates) filed suit, alleging that Gary retained ownership of the collection and that his ownership interest passed to his heirs upon his death. Following a four-day trial, a jury found that Gary had made a conditional gift to Nancy. Accordingly, when Gary died, Nancy's ownership interest was no longer subject to Gary's reversionary interest, thus entitling the Partnership to the proceeds of the auction. The Estates appeal, arguing that the evidence did not establish a conditional gift and that the district court1 should have granted their motion for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, their motion for a new trial. We affirm.
We state the facts in the light most favorable to the verdict. Structural Polymer Grp., Ltd. v. Zoltek Corp., 543 F.3d 987, 991 (8th Cir. 2008) (standard of review).
Gary was born on May 5, 1931. He lived in a modest two-bedroom bungalow with his parents in Memphis, Tennessee. Gary suffered from cerebral palsy and needed assistance with everyday tasks, including eating and walking. His mother, Nell Lucas Pepper (Nell), cared for Gary during his younger years. By all accounts, Gary was an ambitious person. He started a newspaper-clipping service when he was a teenager and later served as president of an Elvis fan club and as a correspondent to other Elvis fan clubs.
Through his clipping service, Gary met Elvis, and the two became friends. During an October 1960 interview, Elvis said, " When I'm back in Memphis, Gary is with me almost every night. We go out and see the town and have a big old time. He was the first one to greet me at the train when I got back from the Army." A photograph accompanying the article shows Elvis, who was dressed in costume for his movie Flaming Star, standing next to Gary, who was seated in a wheelchair and grinning broadly. Gary also attended Elvis and Priscilla Presley's wedding reception and later greeted the couple's newborn daughter
at Graceland. Along with paying Gary a salary for his work with the fans, Elvis often gave him gifts. Over time, Gary amassed a large collection of Elvis memorabilia.
Gary's father died in 1971. Nell suffered from depression and gradually became unable to care for Gary. Elvis asked Carl Nichols (Carl) to...
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