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Neal v. Guidry

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

May 15, 2019

Henry Neal, Appellant
Wayne Guidry and Kat Guidry, Appellees


          Before Justices Baker, Smith, and Shannon [*]


          Bob E. Shannon, Justice.

         This is an appeal from the judgment of the county court at law of Hays County in a breach-of-contract suit. Upon trial to a jury, the court rendered judgment for appellees Wayne and Kat Guidry for $38, 000. Appellant is Henry Neal. We will reverse the judgment and remand the cause for new trial.

         Wayne Guidry inherited from his father a large and diverse assortment of items (the collection) including military medals and Native American relics. Among the medals were three Congressional Medals of Honor; the collection also contained thousands of arrowheads.

         Pursuant to a written contract, Neal bought the collection for $90, 000. He made a $40, 000 down payment but refused further payment. Guidry filed suit to recover the balance. Neal answered, pleading, among other things, that the contract was illegal and that he was induced to enter into the contract by Guidry's fraudulent representations or concealment of information.

         Neal first met Guidry in November 2012 at Guidry's garage sale. After Neal appeared interested in some of the pieces in the garage sale, Guidry showed him the collection. When Neal inquired whether he would sell the whole collection, Guidry replied that he might at a later date but that he was then too busy taking care of his mother. After Guidry's mother died, he telephoned Neal that he was able to sell the collection. In April 2013, Neal again viewed the collection, including the three Congressional Medals of Honor. Guidry's asking price for the collection was $200, 000, although he told Neal that he could have it for $150, 000.

         In May 2013, Neal returned to see the collection, bringing with him his financier, Terry Verburgt. Guidry again showed the Congressional Medals of Honor, emphasizing their monetary value. Verburgt testified that Guidry told them that each medal could be worth up to $7, 000 and that these medals were being sold along with everything else in the collection.

         Federal law prohibits the sale of Congressional Medals of Honor. See 18 U.S.C.A. § 704(a), (c). Although Neal claimed to be unaware of the prohibition, Guidry knew that it was illegal to sell them. Guidry claimed at trial that he told Neal that these medals could not be sold but that he was giving them to him because he was buying the whole collection.

         At the May visit, Neal and his party spent several hours looking through the collection and listening to Guidry describe the collection and its origins. Guidry claimed that his family, including his grandfather, father, and himself, had personally dug up all of the Native American artifacts and that he had family records and photographs to document his claim. In truth, at least 30 to 40 percent of the arrowheads in the collection were not dug up by his family, but instead were purchased by his father from dealers in Arkansas and Missouri. Guidry had in fact accompanied his father on several such buying trips. The dealers did not furnish any certificates of authenticity of the arrowheads.

         After the May visit, Neal bargained with Guidry for the collection. Neal asked if Guidry would drop the price to $110, 000. Guidry agreed. Later in May, Neal returned to Guidry's house to pick up the collection and make a $40, 000 down payment. Verburgt and two other men came with him to help load the collection. It took most of the day to load everything in Verburgt's truck and trailer. The Congressional Medals of Honor were included in the items that Neal received. No one heard Guidry say that those medals were being gifted, not sold, to Neal.

         After taking possession of the collection, Neal showed a few of the arrowheads to a local arrowhead "expert," Rob Bartell. Bartell's opinion was that some of the arrowheads were "possibly good, some definitely not good" and some had been retipped. "Retips" are arrowheads reworked by "knapping." Flint knapping is the process for making arrowheads. Also, if an authentic arrowhead is broken or imperfect, it may be reshaped (retipped) by knapping to make it perfect. Retipping drastically reduces the value of an arrowhead. Neal visited with Guidry concerning Bartell's opinion of the authenticity of the few arrowheads that he had examined. Guidry "strongly disagreed" with Bartell's evaluation, but agreed to drop the sales price for the collection to $90, 000.

         At this point, however, Guidry wanted a written contract to make certain that there would be no more renegotiations of the sales price. Guidry's wife drafted the contract which Neal signed on June 18, 2013. Neal testified that he did not discover until some weeks later that the Congressional Medals of Honor could not be sold. At that time, he telephoned Guidry telling him the medals could not be sold and requesting him to take back the collection and "call off the deal." Guidry refused.

         Meanwhile, Bartell, the arrowhead expert, finished going through the "mountain" of arrowheads. He found that there were massive quantities of valueless retips, literally "bins full of them." One witness described the retips as just "sharp rocks" as opposed to valuable artifacts. From the entire batch of arrowheads in the collection, only a few were certified as authentic. Guidry never furnished any family records or photographs documenting his claims that his family had dug up the artifacts, ...

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