Appeals - Lawson v. Harris Culinary Enterprises, LLC
In Lawson v. Harris Culinary Enterprises, LLC, [Ms. 1091751, Oct. 21, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2011), the Supreme Court of Alabama reversed and rendered a $500,000.00 judgment in favor of Harris Culinary Enterprises, LLC on its fraud claims as to one of the defendants, Mitzi Lawson. This case arose from the purchase of a pizza franchise. During the purchase negotiations, Mitzi was married to a co-defendant, Sims Lawson. Sims formed SYM, Inc., also a co-defendant in this action, for the purpose of operating a pizza restaurant franchise. Sims was the president of SYM, Inc. SYM purchased a building in which to operate the franchise and that building was titled solely in Mitzi's name. Harris alleged that SYM had made various fraudulent representations regarding the financial profitability of the pizza franchise. Harris sued Mitzi as the owner and lessor of the building in which the franchise was located. At trial, at the close of Harris' evidence, Mitzi moved for a directed verdict on the grounds that Harris failed to present any evidence of a single misrepresentation on Mitzi's part. The trial court denied Mitzi's motion. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Alabama held that the trial court erred and that the undisputed evidence showed that, not only did Mitzi not make any misrepresentations to Harris, the evidence failed to demonstrate that she was even aware of any material fact to conceal. Therefore, the Court held there was insufficient evidence to support a judgment in favor of Harris on its fraud claims against Mitzi. The Court reversed the trial court's judgment against Mitzi and rendered a judgment in her favor as to the fraud claims of Harris. The judgment against the co-defendants was not appealed and, therefore, was unaffected by this decision.