INEZ – An interesting thing happened in the Inez courthouse this
week: an irresistible force met an immovable object.
Ned Pillersdorf, certainly a legal force in the area, irresistible to jurors, successful in most of his trials in Martin County, got nailed last week when he ran into the Martin County rock, John Kirk. It was the first courtroom meeting of Kirk and Pillersdorf, both of whom usually represent plaintiffs.
Kirk – according to reports from courthouse watchers – had never lost a civil trial at Inez.
More than $1 million was at stake in a Floyd County case that came to trial at Prestonsburg last September, but was transferred to Martin County after a mis-trial.
Pillersdorf represented the seven siblings of Shirley May Reynolds. Kirk represented another sister, Vicki Bryant.
The trial concerned the will of Shirley Mae Reynolds, a wealthy business woman who died last January. The defendant, Bryant, probated what purported to be the Last Will and Testament of Shirley Mae Reynolds, but the other siblings sued claiming the signature on the will was a forgery. A handwriting expert from Louisville, Steve Slyder, backed up Pillersdorf’s case and testified for several hours Monday.
Kirk and Bryant, however, carried the day without relying on an expert. Kirk’s case was based upon what he called the will maker’s “intent.” Several of Kirk’s witnesses testified that Shirley Reynolds told them that she had “always intended” to leave her estate to Vicki Bryant, the youngest of ten children. Kirk also produced testimony from witnesses who said that Shirley Reynolds, twenty-eight years older than Vicki Bryant, and Bryant had a “mother-daughter” relationship.
In his closing argument, Kirk portrayed the handwriting expert as a paid “hired gun in it for the money.”
“He (the expert) made $4,000,” Kirk said, “for coming from Louisville to testify,” and he cautioned the jurors about what could happen to them. “If that’s all it takes to break a will, what will is safe?” he asked jurors.
The jury, by a 9-3 verdict, found for Bryant. Floyd Circuit Judge, John David Caudill, presided over the trial. Pillersdorf has announced that he will appeal.