New claims filed in Thomas estate dispute
by Dylan Lightfoot
New motions and claims have been filed in the tangle of civil disputes over the estate of the late artist Florence Thomas.
On Feb.1, 2013, investment broker Naomi Johnson and Capital Investments Group filed a “motion to sever proceeding and compel arbitration” in response to a Dec. 13. 2012, complaint seeking compensatory damages from Johnson and CIG for alleged fraud and misrepresentation in the management of Thomas’ estate.
The complaint was filed by three plaintiffs: attorney J. Stanley Atwell of Greensboro, successor trustee for the Florence Thomas Living Trust (FTLT); attorney Peter Parish of Jefferson, successor trustee for the Thomas-Plummer Trust (TPT), and Betty Plummer, Thomas’ daughter and executor of her estate.
The plaintiffs allege that Johnson “exerted undue influence on Betty Plummer” and her late husband William Plummer in managing their finances, while Betty’s “age, infirmity and lack of education…precluded any exercise of free and voluntary acts.”
Johnson’s motion claims that “each and every account, and every transaction in those accounts, at issue in this lawsuit is governed by a binding, enforceable arbitration agreement.”
The motion alleges that the Plummers — with whom she had been doing business since 1995 — were fully informed of arbitration clauses for each of several accounts they opened, and that they fully understood, and made no objection to, arbitration agreements. “At all times, the Plummers appeared to be lucid and competent,” read an affidavit sworn by Johnson.
The Dec. 13 complaint also sought damages from attorney Grady Lonon of Jefferson for alleged malpractice and fraud in establishing the FTLT and administering Thomas’ estate.
Lonon was both the attorney for the estate, and an “an agent and incorporator” for the Florence Thomas Memorial Art School when he drafted a 2004 amendment to the FTLT, deleting a list of beneficiaries and replacing them with the art school, which did not then exist, according to the allegations.
On Jan. 7, 2013, Lonon filed for and was granted a Feb. 25, 2013, extension to answer the complaint against him.
A disagreement over distribution of assets from Thomas’ estate resulted in the filing of related civil complaints last year between trustees and beneficiaries of the estate.
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