The plaintiff, a native of Liberty in Amite County, was recruited in 1990 to be a local insurance agent for Mississippi Farm Bureau and related entities. The plaintiff recalled she was induced to take the job (as an independent contractor) by a promise that after she worked hard to build a book of business (a collection of customers), her work would shift from cold-calling friends and relatives to maintaining that hard won book of business.
The plaintiff signed on and did well in her position. She was highly regarded by Farm Bureau and her business grew. As she moved towards a ten-year tenure with Farm Bureau, she neared a point when her interest in her customer policies would become vested.
It was then, the plaintiff recalled, that Farm Bureau attempted to change her employment contract. She was suddenly required to solicit more and more business in the form of sales quotas, the plaintiff believing it was a scheme to force her out before she became vested.
The plaintiff joined other Farm Bureau agents who were similarly aggrieved (from other parts of Mississippi) in a Claiborne County lawsuit in 1998. The Supreme Court in 2006 ultimately concluded venue in that jurisdiction was inappropriate and provided the plaintiffs an opportunity to refile in an appropriate jurisdiction.
The plaintiff did so in this 2008 lawsuit in Amite County. While she had presented other counts including conspiracy, fraud and wrongful termination, only a single breach of contract count survived to trial. [The court also directed a verdict on punitive damages.] The plaintiff’s liability expert was William Walker. A second expert, Glenda Glover, Economist, valued the plaintiff’s vocational loss at $1.8 million.
Farm Bureau defended the case that there was no contract interest. In this regard, it focused that (1) the plaintiff terminated the agreement, and (2) the contract itself could be ended by either party with 10 days notice. Because the contract was terminable at will, the insurer argued, there could be no damages. Farm Bureau’s insurance expert was Van Hedges, Corinth.
This case was resolved by a jury in Liberty. The verdict was for the plaintiff on the simple contract count and she took compensatory damages of $125,000. A consistent judgment was entered.
The plaintiff has since moved for an award of pre-judgment interest (of some $344,721) dating back to when the original lawsuit was filed in August of 1998. Farm Bureau too has moved for JNOV relief arguing among other things that the plaintiff’s damages were too speculative as the contract could be terminated at any time. All motions were pending in late October when the MSJVR reviewed the record.
The case(s) cited herein was(were) reprinted with the permission of the publisher Jury Verdict Review Publications, Inc. www.jvra.com
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