Wallrath Vs. Wallrath

The case of Richard E. (Dick) Wallrath vs Daniel Wallrath, Michael Wallrath, Pamela Wallrath Dolenz, Alexander Robertson, and Gary Robertson is currently underway in the Centerville courthouse. The jury heard four full days of testimony last week. The trial is predicted to take at least one more week. The Honorable District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans is presiding.

Daniel and Michael are Dick Wallrath?s sons. Pamela Dolenz is Dick?s daughter. Alexander Robertson is Dick?s grandson from a daughter who is deceased. Gary, father of Alexander, is Dick?s son-in-law.

Attorneys for Dick Wallrath include lead attorney Paul Clote of the Houston area, Jess Mason of Centerville, and 4 other assistants. Lead attorney for family members is Bennie Rush of Huntsville accompanied by his assistants.

In opening statements on Tuesday, attorneys on both sides outlined their clients positions. Clote, representing Dick Wallrath, described how Wallrath, after having been successful at various business avenues came to Centerville, purchased close to 6,000 acres of land and began developing Champion Ranch.

Dick Wallrath built a home, a show barn, an arena, more barns all by his own hand. He also paved all the roads on the ranch. But what he wanted most was for his children to be a part of his life. He wanted to leave Champion Ranch to his children when he died.

Most of his children did come to the ranch. Oldest son Mike Wallrath and his wife are living there now and Mike works for the ranch. Son-in-law, Gary Robertson and his son, Alexander, Dick?s grandson, live there and Gary is a ranch employee. Around 2010 Danny Wallrath, Dick?s second son and Danny?s family came to live and work on the ranch. Currently there are 4 generations of Wallraths living in homes provided by Dick Wallrath and living and working on Champion Ranch.

In the fall of 2012, Dick Wallrath had trouble sleeping and was troubled with some anxiety; he saw a doctor who prescribed Ativan. Dick began having much worse symptoms and hallucinations. Dick lost about 30 pounds and according to testimony from several people who saw him during that time ?he was not at all himself?. He was described as ?in a fog?. Dick who had always been very decisive was now unsure of his words and reluctant to speak; reluctant to be away from the sight of his wife, Patsy Wallrath. Another doctor prescribed Xanax; Dick symptoms worsened.

During this period in December of 2012, Danny Wallrath, who had been given control of some aspects of the ranch by Dick Wallrath, and had Power of Attorney over Dick, called a meeting for the family at the ranch Office to have what has been referred to as a ?signing party?.

Patsy Wallrath brought her husband Dick to the meeting. Dick?s long time attorney and friend was present as well as Dick?s long time accountant. Most of the family members were there. Papers were signed. Patsy testified that she had no idea what they were all signing. Patsy is not a part of the ranch operations and said she thought it must be end of the year concerns. Dick, though not himself mentally or physically, signed all papers presented to him.

A few weeks after the ?signing party?, Dick Wallrath went with Patsy to see a another doctor because Patsy was suffering with shingles. This doctor also treats persons who are recovering addicts. When the doctor learned of Dick?s condition and the medications Dick was taking, he knew that the medications were causing Dick?s mental state of confusion.

Dick Wallrath, 30 years prior, had been an alcoholic. Ativan and Xanax are the wrong drugs for a person with an addiction. Patsy?s doctor put Dick on Seroquel. And slowly, Dick was able to recover, then, eventually, return to his former strength. Today he is mentally as strong as he ever was.

In the spring of 2013, when Dick Wallrath was near full recovery, Dick went to his office where he found his personal effects had been dismantled and one of his sons had moved into Dick?s office space. After asking about operations and other matters, an argument occurred between Dick and sons Mike and Danny which progressed to a physical altercation between Dick and Mike. In opening statements from Clote, that is when Danny told his father, Dick, ?Get out of here old man; you don?t own any of this anymore.?

Bennie Rush, the lead attorney who represents the family members, explained that giving ownership of Champion Ranch to his family was something Dick Wallrath had wanted and put in motion in 2010. Everything that was signed and completed at the 2012 ?signing party? was what Dick Wallrath wanted done because Dick thought he was near death. Recovered now, Dick wants it all back.

Present at the ?signing party? were Dick?s wife, Patsy, and Dick?s friend of 30 years and attorney, Robert Adam. Also Dick?s long time accountant Curtis Cloud was present. Rush contents that Patsy, Adam, or Cloud would not have allowed Dick to sign the papers if they did not think it was what Dick wanted.

Adam and Cloud drew up the transfer instruments that moved ownership of Champion Ranch from Dick to Danny, Pam, Alexander, and Mike. Attorneys on both sides agree that Dick?s land and other assets are valued at about $60 million dollars.

Highlights of

Testimony from Week 1:

One of the first witnesses called by Clote was Forensic Document Examiner / Handwriting Expert, Janet Masson. Masson testified that five signatures on papers involved in the transfer of property from Dick Wallrath to his children had false signatures of Dick?s. ?I am 100% certain that these five signatures were not done by Dick.? All five documents were dated January 13, 2013 just weeks after the ?signing party?.

It was also Masson?s testimony that the medications Dick was taking and his altered state did not cause a significant change in his ?very strong handwriting?.

Dick Wallrath?s attorney and friend for 30 years Robert Adam testified that he, Adam, drew up the the documents that transferred Dick?s property and assets to Danny, Pam, Alexander and Mike because Danny, who was now the person in charge of the ranch, asked him to do it. ?Danny said it was what Dick wanted,? said Adam.

Adam knew that Dick was sick and had visited him while Dick was in the hospital. Asked if he ever consulted with Dick about the transfer, Adam said he did not speak to Dick about it. Clote asked Adam, ?As Dick?s attorney, were the documents you prepared to transfer Dick?s property in Dick?s best interest.?

?No, they were not,? answered Adam.

When asked if Dick was compensated for the loss of his property, Adam said, ?No?.

Adam also said that Dick had discussed estate planning with a financial person in 2010. That person advised Dick to begin gifting his estate to his children while he was still living to avoid tax penalties. But Adam and and Dick?s accountant Curtis Cloud advised Dick not to do that. Adam said, ?I knew that it was Dick?s plan to give all he had to his children after Dick died.?

It is the defendants position that Dick did want to set the plan in motion to give Dick?s property to them while he was still living. And, they contend, that Dick?s wife Patsy, Adam and Cloud were all present at the ?signing party? and no one advised Dick against signing the papers.

Patsy, Dick?s wife of 30 years, made a very compelling witness. Her voice was strong and clear as she described the months Dick was sick, confused, and withdrawn. Asked by Clote what this time was like for her, Patsy said, ?It scared the hell out of me. To see this man who has always been so strong physically and mentally reduced to uncertainty and fear was terrible.?

During this time period, Patsy said Dick seldom left the house and did not want Patsy to leave the room he was in. ?It was hard,? said Patsy, ?and I was scared for him.? Asked why she did not speak up at the ?signing party? to ask what the documents were about, Patsy said, ?I was just so focused on him and his condition. I knew he was happy having the kids around him.? Patsy also said that since Adam and Cloud were there and since she trusted Danny, she thought everything was going as it should.

Every witness called described Dick Wallrath as a person who was always in control. An ethical person whose word was his bond. Dick believed a person had to work hard for what he got, and if he was fortunate, as Dick had been, then he should give some of his wealth to others.

One Centerville native testified that he has been a friend of both Dick and Mike. Asked if he had ever called Dick Wallrath ?mean as a snake,? the friend laughed and said, ?I did jokingly, but Dick also has a heart of gold.?

The Centerville friend said that he was present at the 2011 annual party the Wallrath?s have each year for employees and friends. ?That was when Dick announced that Danny would be taking charge of running the ranch.?

?Did this surprise you that Dick was giving up some of his control??

?No, Dick always wanted to have Danny back on the ranch. And even though he might put Danny in charge, the last word would always be Dick?s.?

Dick funds the Richard Wallrath Educational Foundation. Every year this fund provides 142 high school students with a $10,000 scholarship to attend a university in Texas. Dick holds the record for largest donation to the Houston Livestock Show, after he donated 3.2 million dollars to the organization in one year. A movie has been made about Dick?s life called Deep in the Heart.

During testimony last week, Dick and Patsy Wallrath sat at a table with their lead attorneys. They do not speak often and they do not take notes, but they listen intently to the witnesses and lawyers. Both are attractive individuals and make a stately couple.

The family members fill two rows in the court room, sitting directly behind their attorneys. These are attractive people also, and they are equally engaged in the court proceedings.

Last week was mainly the presentation of Dick Wallrath?s version of how and why this lawsuit came about. This week the family will be able to present their version of events and what happened. Attorneys on both sides believe in their clients passionately.

The jury is made of 7 women and 6 men, one gentleman is an alternate. They represent all ages of people. Some take notes, and all listen attentively to the court proceedings.