MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Montgomery Circuit Court judge is vacating a jury's verdict that was handed down in December, 2014 against a Montgomery jewelry store.
The verdict was in response to an alleged diamond-swapping incident involving Marquirette's Exquisite Jewelry. Judge Charles Price vacated the verdict after the two parties reached a settlement out of court on Wednesday. The case is now legally closed.
The jury had ruled in December, 2014 in favor of DeeDee Nolan, who filed a lawsuit accusing Marquirette's of swapping her diamond for one of lesser value. Marquirette's was appealing the ruling when the settlement was reached.
"They were confused and we had a misunderstanding about that," says Marquirette's owner Lyle Fields. "We did everything properly here, there was nothing done wrong; we spoke it out and it got cleared up."
Kenny Mendelsohn and his client, DeeDee Nolan, maintain this is more than a misunderstanding, and the settlement doesn't change what they believe happened here. They say it was simply time to close the case.
"This way there are no appeals, no more motions, no more costs," Mendelsohn said.
The jury had awarded Nolan $6,500 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages. Nolan didn't ask for a specific amount of money from the court. She's asked the jury to award a fair and reasonable amount of compensatory and punitive damages, plus interest and costs.
“I really believe that God put me in there to make a stand, I believe some people are put here to fight," Nolan said in Decemeber. “It wasn't about money, ever, it was to stop them.”
This was a civil case. No criminal charges have been filed against Marquirette's or its owners. Marquirette's Exquisite Jewelry flatly denied the allegations.
“I do want to re-affirm that, 1000%, we absolutely did not do any switching or any changing of any stones,” said Fields.
The diamond in question was a family heirloom that its owner wanted to turn into an engagement ring.
"It was going to be passed down to the next generation, and it was supposed to be a real exciting occasion to give a ring, especially from three generations back, to your wife," Mendelsohn said. "Instead it turned into be a nightmare for them."
Mendelsohn said Nolan took the stone to Marquirette's and got a different one when she returned.
"DeeDee took in one diamond for her son to use as an engagement ring and when he got it back, it was a completely different size, completely different color, much poorer quality diamond," Mendelsohn said.
There were two significant testimonies during the course of the trial.
The first was from Heidi Lewis, a former Marquirette's employee who now owns Heidi's Fine Jewelry. After reviewing a report from the Gemological Institute of America, Lewis said the measurements and specifications of the diamond returned to the Nolans could signify the diamond is an old stone dating back to the early 1900's.
The other significant testimony came from Lyle Fields, the owner of Marquirette's. He said standard procedure in his store is to clean stones, appraise them, and point out imperfections to customers before placing them in new settings. He said that procedure wasn't followed in this case.
“Their own testimony confirmed it was at least 70 or 80 years old,” Fields said after the verdict was read in Decemeber. “Unfortunately, the stone could have been cleaned better, or shown at a different angle, and they would have seen the imperfection ahead of time and not think that there's a different diamond.”
James said the owners have worked hard to earn the community's respect and the reputation of being good citizens and business people.
"They didn't switch the stone, they've not done that before, they don't do it now, they won't do it in the future," James said. "I've got two folders full here of compliments and thank yous of people in all walks of life in the city, organizations where they have contributed and provided assistance and donations and things like that."
Marquirette's has been in business in Montgomery since 2003.