JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Baptist Convention is seeking to collect attorneys’ fees and court costs even as its case against a formerly affiliated entity continues in the legal system.
On Oct. 17, the MBC filed a writ of garnishment against Church Mutual Insurance Co. in an effort to force the firm to begin paying legal costs for the Missouri Baptist Foundation, which could rise as high as $5 million as interest accrues.
The costs stem from ongoing legal action the convention filed in 2002 against The Baptist Home, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Word & Way, Missouri Baptist University and the Foundation to overturn changes each entity made in its governing documents to elect its own trustees. Windermere won its portion of the 2002 lawsuit, and the convention voluntarily dropped the case against the news journal.
Church Mutual mediators met with remaining entity heads and MBC leaders last fall and early this year in an effort to settle the matter out of court.
But the discussions ended over the “ultimate sticking point” — governance — a “non-negotiable issue,” MBC Communications Team Leader Rob Phillips noted in the Agency Restoration Group video presentation at the convention’s annual meeting Oct. 28 at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Earlier this year, Judge Frank Conley issued a final judgment to a ruling in the Foundation portion of the lawsuit by former Cole County Circuit Court Judge Paul Wilson on Dec. 31, 2010, and amended by Cole County Senior Judge Byron Kinder three times in 2011.
The Foundation has filed an intent to appeal Judge Conley’s ruling to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.
The question remains whether the MBC can legally collect from the insurance company now or will have to wait until after the appeal. Judge Conley left in place earlier court rulings that requirements stemming from those rulings would be stayed until all legal remedies have been exhausted.
The convention had tried a second time to reclaim Windermere through legal action in Camden County. The Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, upheld the Camden County Circuit Court, and earlier this year, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to examine that case again.
But the ARG insisted Windermere won on procedural matters, “not on the merits of the case,” Phillips said in the video report. The appeals court ruling, which ended the possibility of a jury trial, keeps “the facts” from Missouri Baptists, he added.
Although they would not learn the “true story” of the legal conflict, Missouri Baptists now have regained, through “an act of divine providence,” 970 acres of land that once belonged to Windermere, Phillips said.
The MBC purchased the property from Desert Capital REIT for $1.6 million after Windermere Development Co., which had purchased it as part of a conference center loan-restructuring plan, lost it in bankruptcy.
Messengers to the MBC annual meeting approved an ARG recommendation to approve the group’s report and its recommended future steps in the ongoing litigation. But the committee did not reveal what those future steps would be.