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Tramel v. Tramel

August 18, 1998

WENDELL WAYNE TRAMEL, APPELLANT
v.
LISA RENEE COLEMAN TRAMEL, APPELLEE



Before Bridges, C.j., Herring, And Southwick, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bridges, C.j., For The Court:

Tramel v. Tramel, 96-CA-01275-COA, __ So. 2d __

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/06/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MELVIN MCCLURE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PANOLA COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: GRANTED DIVORCE ON GROUNDS OF HABITUAL CRUEL AND INHUMAN TREATMENT

DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED

¶1. Lisa Tramel was granted a divorce from Wendell Tramel on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. As part of the equitable division of property, the chancellor granted Lisa forty percent of the proceeds from a personal injury settlement Wendell received after the amputation and subsequent reattachment of his arm. On appeal, Wendell argues that the settlement money was not marital property and should not have been subject to equitable division. Additionally, Wendell attacks the chancellor's award to Lisa of periodic and lump sum alimony because of her admitted adulterous cohabitation with her boyfriend at the time of the divorce. Wendell presents these issues as follows:

I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED MANIFEST ERROR IN HOLDING THAT THE ENTIRE PROCEEDS OF A PERSONAL INJURY SETTLEMENT RECEIVED DURING THE COURSE OF THE MARRIAGE WERE A MARITAL ASSET AND SUBJECT TO EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION BY THE COURT.

II. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED MANIFEST ERROR IN HOLDING THAT LISA RENEE COLEMAN TRAMEL WAS ENTITLED TO LUMP SUM AND PERIODIC ALIMONY.

¶2. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, we find that the proceeds from Wendell's personal injury award were not marital property subject to equitable distribution. We therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

FACTS

¶3. Wendell and Lisa Tramel were married in March 1979. They had one child who was born in May 1983. The parties separated twice during their marriage, and Lisa filed for divorce on June 13, 1994, on the grounds of adultery and/or irreconcilable differences. Wendell then filed his own cross-bill *fn1 for divorce alleging habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and/or irreconcilable differences. Lisa amended her complaint to include habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. The trial court granted Lisa a divorce on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment.

¶4. While the parties were married and living in Texas, Wendell suffered a severe work related injury in which his arm was completely severed and later reattached. A settlement was reached, and Wendell and Lisa received a check for $250,000. Out of that $250,000, reimbursements were made for costs advanced, worker's compensation benefits, and attorneys' fees. The $250,000 was made payable to Wendell and Lisa individually and as husband and wife. However, the record is devoid of any indication of what claims Wendell and Lisa each had. We assume that Lisa had a claim for loss of consortium in addition to Wendell's claims for his injury.

¶5. In addition to the lump sum payment of $250,000 to Wendell and Lisa, it was agreed that Wendell or his estate would receive monthly payments of $1,940.71 for the next thirty years or the remainder of his life if he lives longer than thirty years. Wendell or his estate was also guaranteed to receive eight specific lump sum payments every four years until the year 2019:

(a) $5,000 - November 1, 1991

(b) $10,000 - November 1, 1995

(c) $15,000 - November 1, 1999

(d) $25,000 - November 1, 2003

(e) $40,000 - November 1, 2007

(f) $60,000 - November ...


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