Wright v. Fountain

CourtAlabama Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJONES; TORBERT; JONES; TORBERT
Citation454 So.2d 520
PartiesAnn K. WRIGHT v. Reedus D. FOUNTAIN. Reedus D. FOUNTAIN v. Ann K. WRIGHT. 82-777, 82-778.
Decision Date25 May 1984

Page 520

454 So.2d 520
Ann K. WRIGHT
v.
Reedus D. FOUNTAIN.
Reedus D. FOUNTAIN
v.
Ann K. WRIGHT.
82-777, 82-778.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
May 25, 1984.
As Modified on Rehearing July 13, 1984.

Page 522

C. Delaine Mountain and Herbert M. Newell III, Tuscaloosa, for appellant/cross-appellee.

William J. Donald III of Zeanah, Donald & Hust, Tuscaloosa, for appellee/cross-appellant.

JONES, Justice.

The appeal by Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiff (Wright) challenges the trial court's order granting the motion of Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant (Fountain) for a new trial. The cross-appeal by Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant asserts as error the trial court's denial of his motion to enforce a settlement agreement. We affirm as to both the appeal and the cross appeal.

This civil action was filed by Plaintiff/Appellee Reedus D. Fountain against Defendant/Appellant Ann K. Wright, alleging that Fountain was the owner of an independent insurance agency; that he employed Wright as an office manager and bookkeeper for the agency; and that during her employment she committed various acts of misfeasance in the operation of his business. He also sought equitable relief, including the return of insurance business records in Wright's possession and an accounting of all receipts and disbursements handled by her in the course of her employment as office manager and bookkeeper, in addition to damages due to her alleged negligence and/or intentional acts.

Wright's initial answer denied the material allegations of the complaint, and requested trial by jury. She then filed a two-count counterclaim against Fountain, seeking damages for alleged defamation, and for monies had and received. She later amended her counterclaim by adding Count III (the only claim that ultimately went to the jury), alleging breach of a constructive or quasi-contract, and claiming damages of $125,000. Before trial, Wright amended her original answer, asserting that she was given authority by Fountain to do any and all acts required in the conduct of his business and financial affairs.

After the case was set for trial, but before the actual trial began, Fountain filed a motion to enforce an alleged settlement agreement. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion.

Shortly before trial, Fountain answered Wright's counterclaim, denying its material allegations and contending, alternatively, that Wright never made any "loans" to his insurance business; that, if money was loaned, she took more from the business than she loaned back; that any such loans were made without Fountain's knowledge or his consent; that the loans, if made, were made by Wright under a scheme to take money from his business or to replace funds taken through Wright's intentional, wanton, or negligent acts. Further, Fountain amended his original complaint by adding Counts II and III. Count II alleged that Wright breached her employment

Page 523

agreement by negligently, wantonly, or intentionally failing to perform her duties as office manager. Count III reaffirmed Plaintiff's initial allegations against Mrs. Wright, and added an additional prayer for damages of $200,000.

Following a jury verdict for Wright on her counterclaim in the amount of $65,000, Fountain timely filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or, in the alternative, a new trial. He alleged that the jury's verdict was against the great weight of the evidence; that the verdict was against the law as contained in his requested jury charges; and that the verdict was a result of prejudice generated by Wright's testimony concerning Plaintiff's alleged sexual misconduct towards Defendant.

The trial court denied Fountain's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, but granted his motion for a new trial. This appeal and cross-appeal ensued.

FACTS

Reedus D. Fountain owns the Fountain Insurance Agency in Gordo, Alabama, where he has been in business for over 22 years. The company is licensed to write multi-line insurance, including fire, automobile, liability, workmen's compensation, life, accident, and health insurance. In addition to his insurance business, Mr. Fountain raises cattle on his farm in Pickens County.

In January 1972, Fountain hired Ann K. Wright, a resident of Gordo, as secretary and office manager for his insurance business. Her duties included taking applications for insurance and calculating premiums, customer billing, payment of Mr. Fountain's business, farm, and personal debts, and assistance in the preparation of Fountain's income tax returns, as well as other general responsibilities.

Fountain maintained three separate checking accounts--one for the insurance business, one for the farm, and another personal account. Wright was explicitly authorized to write checks on the business and personal accounts, but not the farm account. After a period of time, however, she began signing checks on the farm account as well.

Fountain's different bank accounts were from time to time overdrawn. According to Wright, she began borrowing money in 1974 from individuals and banks in her own name and placing the money in Fountain's accounts. Additionally, Wright placed some of her own personal savings in these accounts, as well as funds from the sale of real estate belonging to her and her husband.

According to Fountain, Wright obtained a loan from the Bank of Reform, Alabama, in December 1979, by forging his and his wife's signatures to loan documents and putting up property owned by him and his wife as collateral. The loan amounted to $14,000.

Wright testified that her personal financial contributions to Fountain's three accounts totalled over $79,000. She further testified that the reasons behind her contributions included: 1) Promises by Fountain that she would someday own the insurance business; 2) sexual...

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19 practice notes
  • Black Belt Wood Co., Inc. v. Sessions
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 3, 1986
    ...testing a motion for JNOV. Casey v. Jones, 410 So.2d 5 (Ala.1981). Both motions test the sufficiency of the evidence. Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984). These motions should be denied if there is any conflict in the evidence for the jury to resolve, and the existence of such conf......
  • Isbell v. Smith
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 29, 1989
    ...the movant would have been entitled to a directed verdict. Luker v. City of Brantley, 520 So.2d 517, 521 (Ala.1987); Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984). "Such a motion tests the sufficiency of the evidence and, if granted, discloses that, without weighing the credibility of the ev......
  • Allen v. Alabama State Bd. of Educ., Civ. A. No. 81-697-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • July 3, 1985
    ...in open court or at pretrial conferences are binding, whether such agreements are oral or written. See also, e.g., Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984); Young v. Reddock, 437 So.2d 1247 (Ala.1983). Here, the settlement between the parties was reduced to writing but was not signed by......
  • John R. Cowley & Bros., Inc. v. Brown
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 28, 1990
    ...testing a motion for JNOV. Casey v. Jones, 410 So.2d 5 (Ala.1981). Both motions test the sufficiency of the evidence. Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984)." Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions, Page 377 514 So.2d 1249, 1251 (Ala.1986). Evidentiary challenges, except on grounds of admiss......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Black Belt Wood Co., Inc. v. Sessions
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 3, 1986
    ...testing a motion for JNOV. Casey v. Jones, 410 So.2d 5 (Ala.1981). Both motions test the sufficiency of the evidence. Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984). These motions should be denied if there is any conflict in the evidence for the jury to resolve, and the existence of such conf......
  • Isbell v. Smith
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 29, 1989
    ...the movant would have been entitled to a directed verdict. Luker v. City of Brantley, 520 So.2d 517, 521 (Ala.1987); Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984). "Such a motion tests the sufficiency of the evidence and, if granted, discloses that, without weighing the credibility of the ev......
  • Allen v. Alabama State Bd. of Educ., Civ. A. No. 81-697-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • July 3, 1985
    ...in open court or at pretrial conferences are binding, whether such agreements are oral or written. See also, e.g., Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984); Young v. Reddock, 437 So.2d 1247 (Ala.1983). Here, the settlement between the parties was reduced to writing but was not signed by......
  • John R. Cowley & Bros., Inc. v. Brown
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 28, 1990
    ...testing a motion for JNOV. Casey v. Jones, 410 So.2d 5 (Ala.1981). Both motions test the sufficiency of the evidence. Wright v. Fountain, 454 So.2d 520 (Ala.1984)." Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions, Page 377 514 So.2d 1249, 1251 (Ala.1986). Evidentiary challenges, except on grounds of admiss......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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