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After a default judgment on liability found him responsible for the wrongful death of his wife, former Tennessee lawyer Perry March was ordered by a Nashville jury to pay $113.5 million, including $50 million in punitives, to his wife’s parents and his children. The wrongful-death lawsuit, ironically, was spurred by March’s own attempts to gain control of trust funds his wife had created for their two children. March’s wife, Janet Levine March, then 33, disappeared on Aug. 15, 1996, said plaintiffs’ counsel C.J. Gideon, a name partner at Nashville’s Gideon & Wiseman. “Perry March said his wife had decided to leave home for a 12-day vacation by herself, following an argument with him,” Gideon reported. Before the 12 days were up, however, her car was found, and she never reappeared, said Gideon. The Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press reported that police considered March a suspect. However, no charges were filed. At the time of the disappearance, according to Gideon, Ms. March’s parents, Lawrence and Carolyn Levine, felt that she was unlikely to go off by herself. The couple had been married since 1987, and March worked for his father-in-law’s law firm, Nashville’s Levine, Mattson, Orr & Gerarcioti. A MOVE TO MEXICO Shortly after Ms. March’s disappearance, Gideon said, March took the children to Chicago to live, and then to Mexico. In the fall of 1996, he instituted an action in Tennessee probate court to gain control of trust funds belonging to his children, Gideon said. In late 1996, the grandparents intervened, opposing March’s efforts to obtain control of the trusts set up by their daughter, Gideon added. “The Levines asserted that he was responsible for Janet’s death … “ March denied any complicity in the disappearance or possible death of his wife, according to his former attorney, Nashville’s Michael Radford. But in July 1999, the Levines amended their intervention in probate court and added a claim against him for wrongful death, alleging that he had killed their daughter and hidden the body, Gideon reported. Levine v. March, No. 99P-1676 (Cir. Ct., Davidson Co., Tenn.). March sought to dismiss this action, first contending that the probate court had no jurisdiction over a wrongful-death matter. This motion was denied because the Davidson County probate court also serves as the county’s circuit court. An attempt to remove the case to federal court also was rejected. Several attempts to schedule videotaped depositions with March failed, Gideon said. On Feb. 8, Circuit Court Judge Frank Clement Jr. entered a default judgment against March on liability, declaring Ms. March legally dead and March responsible. A jury trial on damages alone was set for April 25. During this trial, said Gideon, “March and his lawyer didn’t show up.” Before this, March’s lawyers had been present for all motions, although March stayed in Mexico, Gideon added. Collecting the judgment may be difficult, given the size of the award and March’s absence from the U.S., noted Gideon and Radford. Radford represented March briefly. March’s other attorney, Nashville’s Lionel R. Barrett Jr., didn’t return calls.

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