Spragins Family Awarded $2 Million Dollar Judgment In Suit Against First Alabama Bank

Huntsville Times

In what is being called one of the largest judgments in Madison County history, a civil jury here Thursday awarded a prominent Huntsville family $2 million in damages after finding First Alabama Bank mishandled a substantial trust fund.

The award was made to Marion Beirne Spragins III, Lowry Spragins, Robin Jane Spragins and other family members who were included in the last will and testament of Marion Beirne Spragins Sr.

The elder Spragins died in 1973 and his son, Marion Beirne Spragins Jr. , died in 1979. Spragins hall at the University of Alabama in Huntsville carries the family name.

The trial received little publicity until the judgment was rendered against the bank. Court proceedings began Dec. 5 and lasted a week before resuming Wednesday morning of this week.

According to personnel in Judge S. A. Watson office, the jury was charged around 5 p.m. Wednesday. It deliberated nearly two hours before adjourning and returning to the courtroom Thursday where a verdict was reached around 2:30 p.m.

The Spragins family was awarded $1.5 million in punitive damages and $533,000 in compensatory damages.

According to the lawsuit, the trust went into effect during the spring of 1973 and First Alabama, as trustee, had been “under a fiduciary duty to make and retain prudent investments, and not to self-deal.”

But the suit charged that First Alabama had “violated said fiduciary duty over the life of the trust by retaining, buying and selling shares of its own stock.”

In the complaint, the Spraginses contended that “over $623,000 of the assets of this $832,000 trust were in the form of stock of the defendant’s holding company yielding only 5.53 percent!”

The Spraginses, according to the suit, should have been allowed to vote the bank stock held by the trust, “but were not given the opportunity to do so…”

The jury rendered the verdict after hearing charges that First Alabama Bank had violated its fiduciary duties to the Spraginses by retaining for nine years “75 percent of the trust in uninsured common stock of its own private corporation.” The Spragins family is represented by attorney J. Allen Brinkley.

First Alabama is expected to appeal the verdict.