The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 13, 2012

Carthage couple bankrupt eight years after winning multimillion dollar verdict

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A Carthage couple who won a $20 million verdict in a popcorn worker’s lawsuit eight years ago have filed for bankruptcy and are being forced to sell the home, to pay off creditors, they built for $3.9 million.

Eric and Cassandra Peoples filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Sept. 10 in U.S. District Court in Springfield.

Their petition, filed with the assistance of Carthage attorney Kevin Checkett, puts the current value of their residence and its 10.5 acres at 11110 Foxdale Lane at $700,000. They also list personal property assets totaling $32,992.

The couple claim liabilities totaling $611,085, which includes a mortgage of $482,876 with U.S. Bank, secured claims totaling $7,031 on two all-terrain vehicles purchased through Neosho Power Sports, and unsecured claims of 11 creditors totaling $129,584.

The couple did not return a call from the Globe.

The couple won a $20 million verdict in 2004 against International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. and Bush Boake Allen Inc., makers of a butter flavoring used at a popcorn plant in Jasper where Eric Peoples worked.

The lawsuit claimed that he developed bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible disease of the lungs, as a result of exposure to diacetyl, a chemical present in the butter flavoring. Doctors testified that he would eventually need a double-lung transplant.

A Jasper County jury awarded Eric Peoples $18 million and his wife $2 million. Their case was the first of many brought by workers at the plant and their spouses against three different makers of the butter flavoring.

Exactly how much of the verdict the couple received has never been made public. Eric Peoples said at the time that his attorney’s firm was to receive 35 percent of the award. The attorney, Ken McClain, indicated that a portion was to be spread among other workers involved in the lawsuits.

Among the unsecured claims Peoples and his wife list in their bankruptcy petition is a judgment granted Nov. 1, 2011, in Jasper County Circuit Court to Jeff Neely, the contractor who built their home. Neely sued them in August of last year, claiming they still owed him $107,147.

When the couple failed to respond to the lawsuit in a timely manner, Circuit Judge David Mouton granted Neely a default judgment at an annual interest rate of 9 percent. The Peoples’ bankruptcy petition lists the liability at $108,000.

The couple filed a motion in December of last year asking Mouton to set aside the default judgment in light of difficulties the couple were undergoing that fall with a downturn in his health and the strain on Cassandra Peoples of having to tend to the family’s affairs.

Joplin attorney Norman Rouse, who was appointed interim trustee to the bankruptcy proceedings, had the case in Jasper County Circuit Court removed to federal court Sept. 26. Rouse noted in his notice of removal that Mouton had yet to rule on the motion to set aside the judgment and that the couple’s argument may have legal merit.

The couple’s motion asserts a basis for a counterclaim against Neely. They said their house initially was estimated to cost $400,000, but project costs ballooned to more than $3.9 million.

Neither the motion to set aside the default judgment nor the bankruptcy petition explain the $3.2 million difference between what they say they paid to build the home and what they say the property’s current value is.

An attorney with McClain’s firm wrote in the motion filed last December: “Not only should the charges claimed as part of the default judgment be challenged, defendants should be given the opportunity to challenge the entire transaction and recoup some of the money paid to plaintiff as the general contractor of this project through assertion of appropriate counterclaims.”

Neely told the Globe a year ago that he built the house for the couple over a five-year period but stopped work early last year when the unpaid bill came to a head.

“I was never told to quit (work on the house),” he said. “I just got a bad check.”

Neely said he took the matter to the Jasper County prosecutor’s office when a check Cassandra Peoples wrote him bounced twice. She was charged with a felony count of passing a bad check. The charge was resolved Sept. 24 when she pleaded guilty and received a suspended imposition of sentence.

She still faces a forgery charge for having allegedly cashed checks totaling $1,800 at Hometown Bank in Carthage, making them payable to her employer, Smith Midwest Realty, by using the employer’s stamps on the back of the checks. The checks were written on her account at U.S. Bank, which did not have sufficient funds to cover them, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Creditors

Bankruptcy court records indicate that the creditors of Eric and Cassandra Peoples met Thursday at Carthage Memorial Hall and will be meeting again Nov. 2 at the law office of Norman Rouse, the interim trustee in the couple’s bankruptcy proceeding.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Embezzler from Joplin car dealerships sent to prison

    A federal judge has sentenced Kathryn M. Stayton to 13 months in prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from Frank Fletcher Ford and Credit Cars of Joplin. U.S. District Judge Greg Kays assessed the 36-year-old Joplin woman the prison term at a sentencing hearing this week in federal court in Springfield. The judge also ordered the former controller at both car dealerships to pay restitution totaling $121,249. 51.

    April 18, 2014

  • Screening of MSSU presidential applicants to wrap by end of April

    The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University could be in a position to name a president as early as the end of June, according to a timeline presented Friday by the co-chair of the presidential search committee.

    April 18, 2014

  • Teams from Carl Junction, Diamond advance in Destination Imagination

    Student teams from Carl Junction and Diamond will be traveling to Destination Imagination finals May 20-24 in Knoxville, Tenn., after being top finishers in competition this month at Missouri Southern State University.

    April 18, 2014

  • Neosho Dogwood Tour reset, after false start

    The 53rd annual Neosho Dogwood Tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27. The event, presented by the Neosho Rotary Club and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, originally was scheduled for Sunday, April 13.

    April 18, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

  • Kansas Regents stick with social media policy

    After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place.

    April 18, 2014

  • Pittsburg Farmer's Market to open in new building, new location

    The official market season in Pittsburg, Kan., will kick off in the market’s new pavilion-style building at a new address, 11th and Broadway, on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Market hours will continue throughout the season on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, with some Wednesdays or other special days throughout the season as announced.

    April 18, 2014

  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

Yes.
No.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter