Justice who wrote opinion for local farmers dies

Published 12:10 am Friday, May 23, 2014

The former Alabama Supreme Court associate justice who wrote the opinion for the majority in a case important to many Covington County farmers died this week.

Former Justice Sam Beatty wrote the Alabama Supreme Court opinion in NYTCO Service Inc. vs. Wilson that upheld a $1.1 million verdict in favor of more than 80 local farmers in 1978.

According to Star-News archives, a local jury deliberated more than 24 hours in the case in August of 1976. The case related to the sale or loss of 161,000 bushels of soybeans, as well as a significant amount of corn, from Covington Grain Co. between Sept. of 19174 and January of 1975. At the time, it was the largest judgment ever returned by a Covington County jury. Then-Circuit Judge F. M. Smith said the largest previous judgment he could remember was between $50,000 and $60,000.

The judgment was upheld on appeal. When interest was added, $1.4 million was distributed here. A spectator who observed the distribution of the checks told The Star-News, “It was like a bread line during the Depression” when the farmers came to Andalusia to pick up their checks.

Justice Beatty, also a former University of Alabama School of Law professor, died Wednesday in Birmingham. He was 91.