A Pulaski County Circuit Court jury awarded $43.6 million on Friday to an elderly Little Rock man who accused an ex-con in a civil lawsuit of defrauding him of millions.
The jury awarded $4.6 million to Rich-ard F. Toll against Kristian D. Nelson of England for compensatory damages and $39 million for punitive damages. The punitive damages also were tied to Nelson’s businesses, the Little Rock restaurant Hawgz Blues Café LLC and a used car company, I Sell 4 U Auto Sales LLC of North Little Rock.
In July 2020, Toll of Little Rock, who is in his 90s, sued Nelson and said the alleged fraud started in September 2017, when Toll first lent Nelson $10,000 for Hawgz Blues Café, the suit said.
Nelson then kept returning to Toll’s house on an almost weekly basis “with manipulative lies and fabrications to entice more and more money from Toll,” according to the suit.
Nelson denied the allegation. Nelson told Arkansas Business in August 2020 that he needed money for the Little Rock restaurant, a second Hawgz site in North Little Rock and the used car company.
Nelson had filed a counterclaim against Toll with allegations that included breach of contract. But Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in favor of Toll before those claims made it to the jury on Friday.
Toll's attorney, David Wilson of Friday Eldredge & Clark of Little Rock, told Arkansas Business on Monday that he will begin a search for Nelson’s assets.
“If [Nelson] had $43 million, I would assume he would not be defrauding Mr. Toll out of $4 million,” Wilson said. “So collection is going to be a lot of work, but the family’s committed to making sure they collect everything possible, forever.”
Nelson told Arkansas Business on Monday that he plans to appeal. He said he wasn’t able to present his side of the case.
Griffen ruled last month that Nelson couldn’t call any witnesses to testify unless they were on the plaintiff’s witness list. And he couldn’t introduce any evidence at the trial unless the exhibit is listed on the plaintiff’s exhibit list. But Nelson was called to testify, because he was on the plaintiff’s witness list.
Wilson had filed a motion that said Nelson didn’t meet discovery deadlines in the case. Wilson requested that Nelson be barred from calling witnesses to testify and from introducing exhibits at trial. Griffen agreed.
In 2009, Nelson was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison for wire fraud after taking about 20 investors for more than $1 million.