Dick Wallrath Keeps His Ranch

DICK WALLRATH KEEPS HIS RANCH -- Patsy and Dick Wallrath on either side of their lead Attorney Jess Mason of Centerville.

Wednesday, May 13th, in the seventh day of testimony in the case of Richard E. (Dick) Wallrath vs Daniel Wallrath, Michael Wallrath, Pamela Wallrath Dolenz, Alexander Robertson, and Gary Robertson, the case came to a close when a settlement was reached between the two parties.

The agreement leaves Dick owning 100% of Champion Ranch which he purchased in 1993. The family members involved in the suit must leave Champion Ranch by June 9th.

The agreement also requires the family members to leave all Champion trucks and other ranch vehicles on the ranch. The only exception to this is that Alexander can keep the truck he drives as it was a gift to him from Dick when Alexander graduated from Sam Houston University.

Dick forgave all promissory notes he holds from sons Michael and Daniel and gave the group 5.5 million dollars that they can divide among themselves. The cash is a payment to purchase the 19.2% of the ranch owned by Alexander and the 19.2% owned by Pam before the lawsuit had been started. In the original lawsuit, the two 19%'s were not in dispute and Pam and Alexander could have kept them. Now Dick owns Champion Ranch completely.

Judge Evans had all the parties involved in the law suit sworn in and asked them individually if they agreed with the settlement and would not attempt to challenge it or change it in any way. Each agreed that the matter was settled.

Michael, Daniel, and Pam are Dick Wallrath's children. Alexander is Dick's grandson from a daughter who is deceased. Gary Robertson is the father of Alexander and is Dick's son-in-law. All lived and worked on the ranch except Pam who visited the ranch.

According to testimony the first week of trial, the family's problems began in the fall of 2012 when Dick, while on medication that caused him to be confused and ?not himself?, signed papers that were presented to him by family members that transferred ownership of Champion Ranch and all its assets including several working oil and gas wells from Dick to Michael, Daniel, Pam, and Alexander. Dick's long time attorney and Dick's accountant were present at the signing and were the individuals working under Daniel's instructions to draw up the papers according to testimony.

In February of 2013, after a doctor corrected the medication Dick had been taking, his mental and physical health improved to its former strength. When he realized what had been signed, he asked for all the documents to be rescinded and ownership returned to him. The family refused. Dick filed a lawsuit to obtain possession of Champion Ranch.

It was the family's position that Dick wanted to give his children ownership of the ranch while Dick was still living in order to avoid higher taxes his estate might occur if he died before transferring ownership. Dick, however, contented that his wish was to give the children all his properties upon his death. Dick had a will that would give his possessions to his children at his death.

An added drama to the case came on Tuesday when it was brought to the attention of the Honorable District Judge Deborah Evans, who was presiding over the case, that cattle trucks containing calves from Champion Ranch were ready to be sold in Crockett. Judge Evans ordered that the sale of Champion cows be stopped.

?This is the worst move you could have made,? said Evans to attorneys representing the family. ?The cows can wait a few days until this trial is over before being sold.?

The owner of the sale barn in Crockett needed to hear directly from the judge to not unload the cattle in question. Judge Evans spoke over speaker phone with the owner of the sale barn and ordered that the Champion cattle not be sold. (The jury was not in the court at the time of the discussion and decision made concerning the cattle.)

Testimony from

Week Two:

Monday, Attorney Paul Clote, representing Dick Wallrath, called Danny Wallrath to the stand. Danny was on the stand all day Monday and also on Tuesday morning.

Danny explained that his father had invited him and his family to live at the ranch. Dick announced in 2010 that Danny would be in charge of the ranch. Danny testified that it was his father's wishes that ownership of the ranch be transferred to Danny, Michael, Pam, and Alexander.

Clote asked, ?does it seem fair to you that you and the others have the ranch your father bought and developed plus all the oil and gas production and your father not be compensated for it??

?Yes,? said Danny, ?That is what a father does. It's what I'd do for my kids. Sometimes they get what they don't deserve.?

Danny said that he always did what his father asked him to do.

Clote said, ?Well your father has asked you to rescind the transfers. Will you rescind them??

?No, because I promised my father I would take care of the family.?

Danny viewed copies of checks totaling $350,000 that Dick had given Danny in 2009 when Danny first joined the family at the ranch. The money was given to help Danny settle the bankruptcy that Danny had been forced to file. Danny had been in the custom homes construction in the Houston area for 30 years when the building industry took an economical blow.

Danny also testified that he sold his home in League City to Dick and signed a promissory note to purchase 19.2% percent ownership in Champion Ranch. Dick also helped Aaron, Dick's son who was upside down in his home.

Danny, his wife and children, and Aaron all moved to Champion Ranch in 2009 where Dick gave them a home, vehicles, a job, and paid their insurances.

Danny was asked by Clote if he had ever repaid the promissory note he signed to Dick.

?No, said Danny, ?that was part of the plan.?

Clote said that according to Dick, the day Dick got into an altercation at the ranch office with Danny and Mike, Danny said something to the effect, ?Get out old man. You don't own anything anymore.? Clote asked, ?Did you say that??

Danny responded. ?No. I have never talked with disrespect to my father.?

Asked to describe what happened, Danny said that his father was cursing at him, and he (Danny) turned and went into his office and ?the old man followed me.?

Several people testified during the first week of trial that they saw Dick Wallrath around the time that Dick signed the papers relinquishing his ranch to his children. All said that Dick was clearly ?not himself? and seemed to be ?in a fog?. He had lost about 30 pounds.

When Danny was asked if his father seemed normal when he was signing the papers, Danny said, ?Yes, he did.?

?And you knew he was on strong medications??

?I didn't see any medical reports, and I am not a doctor.?

The answer that Pam, Alex, and Michael gave in video depositions, when asked about Dick's health and mental state during the time the papers were signed is very similar to the response Danny gave on the stand. Each one included the sentence ?I am not a doctor.?

But the answers most frequently given on the stand from Danny Wallrath was ?I don't remember? and ?I don't know.?

In the video taped deposition given by Michael Wallrath, Mike said that he first came to Champion Ranch when his father purchased it in 1993. Then in 1996 Mike started MDW Construction and remodeled houses.

?Was the business a success??

?Yes, at times.? But, after 10 years, MDW Construction was in a difficult financial period.

?Did your father help you by giving you half a million dollars to get the company out of debt??

?Yes, he did.? Dick also gave Mike a job on the ranch, a truck, and a home.

On Wednesday, the last day of the trial, Dick Wallrath's lead attorney Jess Mason called Dick to the stand. Dick said he was 84 years old and in very good health. He still works out each day.

Jurors heard Dick testify that he purchased 6,000 acres near Centerville in 1993. He called the acreage Champion Ranch. He worked to improve it and create pasture land. He built a house and barns, an office, and other structures with his own hands.

At that time Dick still owned Champions Windows in the Houston area. A highly successful business, Dick left the day to day operations in the hands of a general manager and a sales manager. Dick's wife Patsy Wallrath kept the financial end of the business. ?I had good people I could trust in charge, and they made me a wealthy man,? said Dick.

Eventually Dick sold Champion Windows for $66 million dollars. He immediately gave $22 million away. Dick has a love for agriculture and believed in helping young people. He gave $7 million dollars to the Houston Livestock Show and $3 million to FFA and 4H. With $12 million, Dick started an educational foundation that awards 142 students each year with a $10,000 college scholarship.

Asked ?Why did you give away $22 million dollars?? Dick explained that ?you can't out give God. If you give away to help others, it will be returned to you in greater amounts.?

Dick described his Brangus herd of cattle as ?one of the best in Texas.? He also has well bred and trained horses, and a peach orchard on Champion Ranch. Dick said the ranch was not always profitable, but it is profitable today.?

?Why,? asked Mason. ?Why is it profitable today??

?Oil,? said Dick. ?Cattle do real well when they can graze around oil wells.?

Asked how he felt about the fact that his children and grandson now own Champion Ranch, Dick said, ?I feel betrayed.?

?I still love each one, but they, and the lawyer and the accountant betrayed me and took from me what I had worked for all my life. I ruined my children with money. I harmed them because I let them miss the growth that can come from being responsible.?

After a morning recess, the jury returned to hear Attorney Bennie Rush, representing the family members, cross exam Dick Wallrath. But Rush was only able to ask two questions before one of the jury members indicated she was sick and a trash can had to be quickly passed to her.

Judge Evans took the jury out of the courtroom, and later returned to say the ill juror would not be able to continue, but since there has been an alternate in place during the trial, the trial can resume.

But the jury did not return. Instead, the jury was on hold, while attorneys on both sides struggled to reach an agreement between the two parties. Sometime in the afternoon an agreement was accepted by both parties. Because of the settlement, the family side of the case was never heard.

In a phone interview the next day, Attorney Jess Mason said that he was able to speak to some of the jurors after they had been dismissed. ?I didn't get to talk to all of them, but all the ones that I did speak with were very pleased with the fact that Dick Wallrath got his possessions back.?

Patsy Wallrath said after the trial, ?It feels so good to have the ranch back and have our lives back!?

Dick Wallrath gave praises to all the attorneys who worked on his case, but gave special thanks to lead attorney Jess Mason of Centerville. ?In every aspect of this case, Jess stayed two steps ahead of the other side,? said Wallrath.