Houston lawyer Valorie W. Davenport has sued the estate of former client Noble C. Ginther Jr.; Roger Howard; and his company, Roger Howard Appraisal Services Inc., alleging they sold property she was storing at a downtown Houston warehouse Ginther once owned and kept the proceeds.
In the petition she filed Nov. 14 in the 165th District Court in Harris County, she alleges, “Defendant Howard also failed and refused to recover her stolen property, despite Plaintiff’s desperate pleas that he do so.” She notes in the petition that a reference to Howard includes his Houston-based company and a reference to his company includes Howard.
Her property, Davenport alleges in the petition, includes “jewelry, electronics, furs, clothing, art, collectibles, furniture, tools, children’s’ clothes, family photographs, family heirlooms, embroidered rugs, crystal, appliances, chandeliers, sterling silver, china, stemware, clothing, sporting equipment, exercise equipment, her children’s keepsake clothes, schoolwork, baby teeth, her children’s Eagle Scout and athletic awards, Plaintiff’s custom made cowboy boots, as well as a lifetime’s work or other similar family treasures.”
Davenport brings a theft cause of action against Howard, a conversion cause of action against Howard and Ginther, and a Theft Liability Act cause of action against “the defendants.” She seeks return of the converted property, unspecified actual and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and expenses, interest and costs.
Roger Howard did not return two telephone messages left at Roger Howard Appraisal Services or respond to an email sent to the company.
Ginther, who was an attorney, died in December 2009. An attorney listed in court records for Ginther’s probate case in Montgomery County, Houston solo Jack Hardin, says no one had contacted him about Valorie W. Davenport v. The Estate of Noble C. Ginther Jr., et al.
S. Douglas Ferrell, who Davenport alleges in the petition was Ginther’s “counsel,” didn’t return two calls seeking comment. A working number for Noble C. Ginther III of Montgomery, whose name was listed in the online probate case file as “applicant,” could not be located.
Davenport, a partner in Davenport & Novotny, estimates the resale value of her belongings at approximately $50,000 but says they are far more valuable to her for sentimental reasons. “It’s everything I had from my family and my children,” she says.
Denise W. Novotny, who signed the petition, did not return two telephone messages left at the firm.
Davenport alleges in the petition that she began doing legal work for Ginther in 2004, and while he did pay some of his fee bill, “the amount and frequency of those payments diminished” and “due to unforeseen circumstances” Ginther became unable to pay her on a timely basis.
Attempting to accommodate Ginther’s financial situation, Davenport alleges in the petition that she accepted Ginther’s offer to reduce her overhead by moving her personal property out of several rented storage units and storing it in a warehouse he owned at 101 Franklin in Houston.
“Defendant Ginther repeatedly assured the Plaintiff that, although he intended to pay her outstanding balance, if she could cut her own overhead cost, she could more easily work with him until he could pay her bill,” Davenport alleges in the petition.
Davenport alleges that Ginther’s financial situation did not improve and he began to live in the warehouse. She alleges Ginther filed a Chapter 11 reorganization, and shortly before he converted the bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 liquidation in September 2008, he sold “almost all the assets belonging to ’101 Franklin Inc.’ including all stock in that corporation” to an individual.
Davenport alleges in the petition that after she learned of the sale, she obtained permission from the new owner to continue to store her property in the warehouse until she could move it to another location. However, she alleges that Ginther, who was still living in the warehouse after the sale, refused to allow her access into the warehouse and “at no time did he advise her of his intent to claim a right to, or ownership of her property.”
Additionally, Davenport alleges in the petition, on Nov. 14, 2008, Ginther filed a “fraudulent lien against her property, falsely claiming to still be the legal owner of 101 Franklin Inc.”
She alleges in the petition that Howard, who is “in the business of buying and selling used or secondhand personal property” obtained the property from Ginther but failed to obtain a signed warranty from Ginther that he had right to possess it.
Davenport alleges in the petition that Howard sold some of her property in 2009. She alleges in the petition that she notified Howard of the “true ownership” of the property, but he “intentionally and maliciously refused to return any remaining items of Plaintiff’s property which were still within his control, or subject to his ability to reclaim and/or recover the same.”
Davenport alleges that in December 2009 she filed suit to “remove the fraudulent lien” filed by Ginther, thereby giving notice that Ginther did not own the warehouse or her personal property.