Battle brewing over John O'Quinn's estate

Attorney John O'Quinn was killed in a car accident, and now his estate has been called into question

August 6, 2010 3:20:18 PM PDT
A battle is brewing over the estate of the late Houston attorney John O'Quinn, who died in a crash last year. His long-time companion is trying to prevent the sale of some of his cars in an auction. Late attorney John O'Quinn's long-time companion Darla Lexington has already made claim to at least part of his estate in court by filing a lawsuit saying she was essentially his common law wife.

Friday's hearing did not determine that claim, rather Lexington was in court with her attorneys trying to stop the sale of five of O'Quinn's cars at a Pebble Beach, California, auction. O'Quinn was known for his car collection. One of them in question is a Talbot Lago.

The judge will have to decide whether or not Lexington could argue a probable right to those vehicles as a gift at her upcoming trial.

A video of happier days for Lexington was shown in court Friday. It showed her with the man she claims was her husband, the late super lawyer John O'Quinn, on a buying spree of collectible luxury cars.

Now it's video evidence in a fight to block the sale of five of those cars.

Lexington was not named in O'Quinn's will and that's not what this court hearing is about. It has to do with the five cars she says were gifts, worth nearly $5 million. The estate has possession of them and hundreds of O'Quinn's other collector cars. The five cars in question are scheduled to be auctioned off next week and Lexington wants them back.

Her attorneys first called a witness by the name of Wayne Hall. Hall said O'Quinn had told him one of the cars was Darla's.

Lexington's daughter, Michelle Coopwood, took the stand and characterized the relationship between her mother and O'Quinn. Coopwood said O'Quinn introduced her to others as his daughter, and she referred to him as her dad.

Also among the witnesses who took the stand were former O'Quinn employees who testified O'Quinn always referred to them as Lexington's cars. Gayla Miller was director of O'Quinn's classy classic cars collection.

Question: How would you describe their relationship?
Miller: They were passionate about the car collecting business.
Question: Did she ever say I want this car?
Miller: Yes, she did. He'd say, "Then you can have it baby."

On Friday afternoon, Lexington took the stand, identifying her last name as O'Quinn. She referred to O'Quinn as "a husband, my lover and my life." Lexington testified she doesn't want the cars returned in order to sell them.

"First of all, they were mine, and I'm planning for them to go into a museum in Houston. That's still my goal," Lexington said.

Before the judge, attorneys for O'Quinn's estate argued that none of these cars were in Lexington's name.

Under questioning from the estate's attorneys, it was brought out that O'Quinn's estate assets are in trouble and that not selling the five cars she claims as gifts could dig a deeper financial hole.

Lexington responded in an emotional voice, "They took those cars. I'm treated like I never knew John O'Quinn."

Late Friday afternoon, the judge said there would be no decision in this case until Monday.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this story.


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