A Lafayette interior decorator arrested and charged in 2005 with 32 counts of forgery and 32 counts of theft by fraud — and later acquitted — will get another crack at suing the wealthy oil-patch family she claims defamed and maliciously prosecuted her — a family she once counted among her close, personal friends.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal recently reversed a ruling by Lafayette District Court Judge Marilyn Castle dismissing Judy Lyons’ civil suit against defendants Ann Knight, Mark Knight, Kelly Knight Sobiesk and Knight Oil Tools.
The case stems from Lyons’ hire by Ann Knight and Kelly Knight Sobiesk in 2002 to do interior design work in the Knights’ primary homes and other residences. However, according to the appeals court ruling, there was no small amount of cloak and dagger involved in the arrangement: “Rather than pay Ms. Lyons directly, [the Knights] instructed her to submit invoices to Knight Oil Tools, Inc., a family corporation that had previously been run by Mrs. Knight’s late husband but was now managed by her son, Mark Knight. In order to keep Mark Knight from knowing that personal work for Mrs. Knight and Mrs. Sobiesk was being paid for by Knight Oil Tools, Mrs. Knight instructed Ms. Lyons to alter invoices so that they looked like business expenses. Ms. Lyons would turn in invoices to the company’s accounts receivable department, and they would give her an unsigned check for Mrs. Knight to sign. At some point, Ms. Lyons, with or without the permission of Mrs. Knight, began signing Mrs. Knight’s name on the checks. While there is no dispute that Ms. Lyons signed some of the checks, there is no claim that Ms. Lyons did not do the work for which the checks were issued, though there is some dispute about the amounts she charged.”
Lyons’ bills for the Knights between 2002 and 2005 totaled more than $600,000 for goods and services provided by her and other vendors, according to the court record.
When company President Mark Knight discovered the subterfuge in 2005, he contacted police who, armed with accusatory affidavits signed by both Knight women, arrested Lyons.
After a three-day bench trial that began in August 2009, Lyons was acquitted by District Judge Herman Clause.
The 3rd Circuit ruling cites the fact that Ann Knight was unable to “identify any checks that she did not sign.” Clause also found that there was no intent on Lyons’ part to defraud the Knights — a requirement for a criminal conviction for forgery.
About six months after her acquittal, Lyons filed suit against the Knights, accusing them of defamation and malicious prosecution. Castle dismissed the suit. The appeals court reversed Castle's ruling.
The case has now been remanded to District Court in Lafayette for further proceedings.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling dismissing Judy Lyons' defamation claims against the Knight family; Lyons, according to the ruling, may pursue both defamation and malicious prosecution claims against the Knights.]
Local 101 class Friday
“Byzantine” is the word members of the nominating committee for the local flood protection authority often use to describe the complicated, multi-layered matrix of qualifications that must be met to fill a vacancy on that board.
In the Pelican State, Benjamin Franklin buys you about $109 worth of stuff.
Brittan Bush joins Liskow & Lewis, Blake David installed as the Third District Member of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s board of governors, and Simien & Miniex announces 2014 scholarship winners.
“In some cases, we’ve found that these parts are nothing more than used junk yard parts. In others, we’ve found them to be foreign knock-off parts of questionable quality.”
The old Daily Advertiser building on Jefferson Street is being rehabbed as the owner prepares to move it back into commerce.
Its fourth leader gone after two years on the job, the facility struggles to balance the tension between its two missions.
Hub City Cycles hits the ground running through small-business center opportunity.
The future of the coastal loss lawsuit could rest in hands of board’s nominating committee.
Leaders from the local tech community ponder the question: What's missing from Acadiana's tech ecosystem?
AT&T’s U-verse heads our way. Here’s what it means for you.
LITE’s virtual environments are changing the way local employees learn how to do their jobs.
Local tech gurus will go the distance to call Lafayette home.
A look at recent hires, promotions and other news from Acadiana's business community.
New Johnston Street eatery catapults to No. 1 spot in nearly 200-location chain.
By identifying companies that match the output of its post-secondary educational institutions, Lafayette is creating opportunities that keep highly trained graduates in the area.
Gideon’s Promise lauds G. Paul Marx’s work to improve the quality of indigent defense and helps train five new public defenders.
What will INNOV8 4.0 look like?
Courtesy Ford is honored; EatLafayette fêtes itself
AG says 50-year-old Terry Francis Savoy sold fraudulent Workers Compensation and Employers Liability insurance policies throughout the state.
The state's jobless rate rose to 5.4 percent in July from 5 percent in June. Louisiana's unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in July 2013.
Oil Center eatery plans drive-thru location on Ambassador Caffery
Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to sell drilling rights in shale formations in Louisiana and Wyoming for $2.1 billion in two transactions.
Local skate shop collaborates with sneaker giant to create the "Crawfish Dunks"
Lafayette-based drilling fluids/frac sand distributor enhances service lines with purchase of Erath company.