Fort Worth

Widow who says husband’s partner cheated his Fort Worth business awarded $7.2 million

A Tarrant County jury awarded a woman $7.2 million after she filed a lawsuit saying that her husband’s two business partners tried to deprive him of his interest in the insurance company that he helped to found.

Don Corley Jr., 61, had a one-third interest in Senior Security Benefits Inc., a company that he helped launch in 2003 with the two married defendants named in the lawsuit, Gaylan and Dan Hendricks. Corley died in 2016 and the jury delivered its verdict on June 21.

The lawsuit alleged that Gaylan and Dan Hendricks eventually tried to fire Corley and keep 100 percent of the profits to themselves.

“The estate of Don Corley is extremely pleased with the unanimous verdict reached by a hardworking Tarrant County jury,” said Larry Cotten, one of the lawyers representing the Corley estate. “The jury verdict indicated that one of the defendants failed to comply with her fiduciary duties and as a result the estate was denied their one-third ownership of the company and I believe the verdict was an attempt to right that wrong.”

The three of them agreed that they would build an insurance company and share equally in the profits, but ownership of the company’s shares would be equally split between Corley and Dan Hendricks, according to the lawsuit.

Gaylan Hendricks would not own any of the company’s corporate shares nor would she be an officer or director of the company, according to the lawsuit.

The three never held formal meetings and no resolutions or minutes were ever adopted or recorded, the lawsuit said. For more than seven years, the company grew and was run like a partnership, with the profits being evenly split and the company eventually grew to be valued at more than $9 million, according to the lawsuit.

Don Lee Corley Jr_fitted.jpeg
A Tarrant County jury awarded the estate of Don Corley Jr. $7.2 million after his widow filed a lawsuit alleging his partners tried to steal profits from an insurance company that he helped establish Courtesy of the family

Corley agreed to transfer 250 of his 750 stock shares to Gaylan Hendricks in the spring of 2011 and to her appointment as a director, and continued to run the business like a partnership rather than a corporation, an outgrowth of the mutual trust that had been established between the three during the past 10 years, the lawsuit stated.

Corley also agreed that Gaylan Hendricks would assume the title of chief executive officer, the lawsuit said.

Then Corley’s partners got greedy, the lawsuit alleged

Sometime after the beginning of 2014, Dan and Gaylan Hendricks approached Corley and asked that he surrender 500 shares of his corporate stock to them in exchange for a percentage of future commissions and Corley refused, the lawsuit states.

Through the company’s legal counsel, Gaylan Hendricks notified Corley that he had been fired, and that his compensation and benefits were rescinded without prior notice and without severance, the lawsuit states. Corley was prohibited from returning to the office to get his personal belongings, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also accuses Gaylan and Dan Hendricks of using their positions to misrepresent the value of Corley’s shares in the company to make him believe that his stock had little or no value and denying Corley access to the company’s financial records.

Lastly, certain commissions valued at $2.4 million due to the company were diverted into a personal account held by Gaylan Hendricks without Corley’s approval or knowledge, the lawsuit states.

“This was a form of corporate theft by the taking of corporate opportunity,” Cotten said. “The lawsuit sought to recover his third of the profits.”

One of the attorneys representing the Hendrickses, Tim Malone, said that he expects that motions will be filed seeking to correct errors made during the case and if that is unsuccessful, a notice of appeal will be filed.

“We believe the jury heard some evidence that should not have been allowed and therefore rendered a verdict based on sympathy rather than the law,” Malone said. “A trial is only a part of the litigation process.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram