The following article is a guest contribution by Benjamin Haynes, Esq. Haynes is a former Division 1 Basketball Player at Oral Roberts University and currently practices law in the State of Florida.
On July 24th, 2012, Terrence Williams filed a lawsuit in Broward County, Florida against George Carter and former NFL wide receiver Cris Carter. Terrence alleges that Cris and George approached him with a business opportunity in June of 2011. This alleged business opportunity was a chance for Terrence to invest money into a musical recording by a famous rap artist whom the Defendants had a connection with. Terrence claims that it was represented to him that Cris would become the University of Alabama’s wide receiver coach, and that this musical recording would play in the Alabama locker room before games. Further, Terrence alleges that the Carters stated that they would make millions of dollars because the Alabama fans would want to buy this music off of I-Tunes.
In the Complaint, the Plaintiff contests that he gave $12,500.00 to George Carter, as he was the leader of this investment. At that time, Terrence claims he was asking for a written agreement in order to outline the investment. No written agreement was ever provided according to Williams. Cris Carter never became the wide-receiver coach for Alabama and the Complaint states that after a year and no written agreement, Terrence started asking for his investment money back. The Complaint further states that no money has been returned to Mr. Williams. Therefore, this lawsuit commenced.
The Plaintiff’s cause of action in this Complaint is based on the theory of Conversion. Conversion is “an unauthorized act which deprives another of his property, permanently or for an indefinite time.” See Star Fruit Co. v. Eagle Lake Growers, Inc., 160 Fla. 130, 33 So.2d 858 (1948); See also West Yellow Pine Co. v. Stephens, 80 Fla. 298, 304, 86 So. 241, 243 (1920). Another explanation of Conversion is, “where a person having a right to possession of property makes demand for its return and the property is not relinquished, a conversion has occurred.” Anderson v. Agnew, 38 Fla. 30, 20 So. 766 (1896).
Williams is stating that the Defendants have deprived him of his property (his money investment) and that he has demanded its return without the property being relinquished. If the allegations are true, then there is strong showing of Conversion.
When seeking damages for Conversion in the state of Florida, the general rule as enunciated in Lilly v. Bronson, 129 Fla. 675, 177 So. 218 (1937), is that damages for Conversion are limited to the reasonable value of the property when converted. Damages are based on the fair market value of the property at the time of the Conversion plus legal interest to the date of the verdict. Gillette v. Stapleton, 336 So.2d 1226 (Fla.2d DCA 1976); Pettigrew v. W & H Development Corp., 122 So.2d 813 (Fla.2d DCA 1960). Therefore, Terrence would only be able to collect the amount initially invested, $12,500.00, plus potential legal interests sought. The Complaint states that the Plaintiff is seeking the $12,500.00 initially invested, plus prejudgment interests, attorney’s fees and costs.
It will be interesting to see the legal route the Carters decide to take in this action. If the allegations are true, it may be best for the Carters to save their money on attorney’s fees and settle the dispute by paying the $12,500.00. Although Cris Carter has been quoted by his agency as believing that he will be dropped from the lawsuit as the lawsuit “proceeds” because the lawsuit is “between the two of them”. Meaning, Cris Carter believes the lawsuit is between his brother and Terrence and doesn’t involve him. However, based on the allegations produced by Williams, it seems as if Cris had an active role in the luring of Williams into the investment. The statements by Cris allude to the notion that Cris and George might plan on retaining counsel and proceeding to defend themselves in this lawsuit.
It is important to remember that there are always two sides to every story. While the Complaint in this action seems like a slam-dunk case, the Carters could very well have a factual and legal basis for precluding judgment in favor of the Plaintiff. We will have to wait and see whether the Defendants file an answer with affirmative defenses, a motion to dismiss, or settle the dispute outside of the courtroom. Once that is done, we can make a more accurate assumption on how the lawsuit will turn out. Look for a follow up article on such once/if a response by the Carters is filed.