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Jury awards $114K in civil real estate, personal property case

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More than $114,000 in damages was awarded in a Polk County civil case that accused an Independence man of bilking a relative out of real estate and personal property.

In a Sept. 12 news release, attorney Nathan Duncan of Bolivar-based law firm Douglas, Haun & Heidemann PC said the Polk County jury in an Aug. 28 verdict awarded his client Mickael Williams, of Walnut Grove, $75,800 for the value of lost real estate, $20,000 in punitive damages and $19,000 for stolen items.

Williams accused his nephew, Terry Roberts, of Independence, of stealing from him in June 2015 while Williams was hospitalized. According to the release, Roberts allegedly removed three truckloads of Williams’ belongings from his Polk County home and took them to Independence without the victim’s knowledge or consent.

Prior to his hospitalization, Williams reached an agreement with Roberts to trade a 40-acre farm in Cedar County in exchange for Roberts restoring a collectible 1956 Ford Crown Victoria owned by Williams. Although Williams transferred the deed for the real estate, the jury found Roberts never restored the vehicle, according to the release. After being released from the hospital, Williams had some of his property returned by Roberts, but a large number of items remained missing.

“This case was purely a matter of right versus wrong,” Duncan said in the release. “We had a younger individual – Mr. Roberts, the nephew of Mr. Williams – taking advantage of his older uncle. It truly bordered on elder abuse.”

In the release, Duncan noted punitive damages often aren’t awarded in a case like this, adding that many such judgments involve injured parties seeking damages from companies that have manufactured allegedly defective or unsafe products.

“Clearly, the message this jury sent was that all individuals have rights, regardless of their age, living conditions, mental capacity, physical health or financial situation,” Duncan said in the release.

The verdict was rendered after a two-day jury trial presided over by 30th Circuit Judge Michael Hendrickson.

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