A lawsuit accuses a Jackson lawyer of embezzling $40,720 from his clients in a wrongful death lawsuit. A Covington County family sued attorney Ramal Cotton in Hinds County Chancery Court on September 14, 2016. Mr. Cotton sits on the boards of the Voice of Cavalry Ministries and the Downtown Jackson Neighborhood Association. The plaintiffs are currently trying to throw him in jail.
Mr. Cotton represented Herman, Naomi, Gary, and Kawani Shivers in a wrongful death action filed in Covington County in 2015 after Elando Shivers died in 2014 after being struck by a vehicle. The complaint alleges that State Farm and Hartford Insurance both paid $25,000 each to Mr. Cotton for distribution to the plaintiffs. However, the complaint also alleges that he gave the insurance companies a bogus general release and indemnity agreement. The Jackson lawyer allegedly never gave any of the funds to the plaintiffs. The State Farm case was dismissed with prejudice by the Circuit Court.
The plaintiffs tried to contact the lawyer but state that his cellphone number was "out of service" and they were not allowed to enter his office. The plaintiffs had enough and retained Jackson attorney Felecia Perkins. Ms. Perkins sued Ramal Cotton on September 13, 2016. The lawsuit charges Mr. Cotton with a breach of fiduciary duty and converting the settlement to his own personal use. The Shivers' also ask for an accounting of the $50,000 settlement funds and ask the court to direct Mr. Cotton to deposit $40,720 into a registry of the court.* They also asked for punitive damages and attorney fees.
Mr. Cotton responded to the complaint but then did not show for his own deposition. The plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions against the defendant in January. Special Chancellor Judge Grant** agreed with the Shivers and ordered Cotton to deposit $40,720 with the court and submit an accounting of the $50,000 to the court as well. The Chancellor also awarded sanctions of $661 to the plaintiffs and ordered Mr. Cotton to appear at a deposition at Ms. Perkins' office on February 3.
Mr. Cotton deposited the $40,720 in the court registry but argued in a motion to alter judgment that the notice for the deposition did not give him enough time to respond. He also asked the court to reconsider imposing sanctions.
The defendant apparently did not satisfy the plaintiff's because they are now trying to throw him in jail. Ms. Perkins filed a request for incarceration on March 13. The petition states:
5. The Defendant has willfully, obstinately, and contumaciously failed to submit a complete and detailed accounting, with supporting documentation, of the money received from the $25,000.00 proceeds from State Fann Insurance and the $25,000.00 proceeds from Hartford Insurance to the Law Office of Felecia Perkins, P.A. and to the Court as of the date of the filing of this petition.The plaintiffs also charge that Mr. Cotton never paid the sanctions of $661 that were ordered by the court. Mr. Cotton also apparently did not appear at the February 3 deposition (KF note: Dear Mr. Cotton, are you sure you want to go down this path with Judge Grant?). They asked Judge Grant to have the defendant arrested and immediately and sit for a deposition while in custody.
No ruling has yet been made on the petition for incarceration or contempt. A trial is scheduled for July 24 at 9:00 AM in Judge Grant's courtroom in Rankin County.
The Mississippi Bar's website states that it suspended Mr. Cotton's license to practice law due to non-payment of dues.
*Mr. Cotton paid $9,280 on July 15, 2016 for funeral expenses after receiving a demand letter.
**Dear Mr. Cotton: This Chancellor doesn't play. Ask Vann Leonard and Mike Brown.
Kingfish note: What are the odds that the Bar and District Attorney will do anything?