Judging by recent history and a case set for Oct. 1 oral argument before Dallas’ 5th Court of Appeals, every item connected to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination will end up in litigation at some point.
Recently, the owner of a Dallas apartment complex where Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald once lived lost a state-court challenge over the building’s demolition. Years earlier, an ownership dispute over the .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver Jack Ruby used to kill Oswald also became the basis of a lawsuit. Now, the 5th Court will hear Wayne Lensing and Lefthander Marketing v. David Card and Cleo Card, a case concerning who owns Oswald’s original grave marker.
The court will have to decide whether Wayne Lensing, the Illinois collector who bought Oswald’s headstone at an auction, can assert a special appearance in the case challenging whether the Texas courts have jurisdiction over him.
Lensing and the company that manages the museum he owns assert in their brief that the alleged theft and conversion could only have occurred in Illinois, because that’s where the plaintiffs contacted him and demanded the return of the grave marker.
Lensing builds race-car chassis and parts; he owns numerous presidential limousines and memorabilia, including several rooms of furniture used in the White House at different points in history, his brief states. Lensing also purchased the Yellow Checker Cab that Oswald used to escape downtown Dallas after the assassination.
The plaintiffs, David Card and Cleo Card, argue in their brief that they properly sued Lensing and his company in Dallas.
“Our folks are suing him for conversion and theft and alleging that the conversion and theft occurred in Texas,” says Chad Baruch, a Rowlett solo who represents the Cards in the 5th Court argument.
The couple’s family had purchased the house where the gravestone was found and are seeking its return. Baruch says the defendants are climbing a steep jurisdictional hill in their argument.
“It’s not easy to win a special appearance, but it’s not impossible to do. It’s very much a case-specific inquiry,” he says.
Kenneth East, a partner in North Richland Hills’ Foster & East who represents Lensing and Lefthander Marketing, says his clients assert that Texas courts have no jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims.
“In this case, the plaintiff has no connection to anything my client did,” East says. “And my client doesn’t have any agents or employees here,” he says, adding that his clients deny the fraud and conversion allegations.
Baruch marvels at the continuing fascination over Kennedy assassination memorabilia and its potential for litigation.
“People are crazy for that stuff,” Baruch says. “It’s, I don’t know, macabre.”
-- John Council