A global settlement has been reached in a former polygamist bride's $100 million lawsuit against her family and the business empire of the Kingston family.
Attorneys confirmed to the Deseret News on Friday that Mary Ann Kingston's 2003 personal injury lawsuit against the Kingstons has been settled. So have a series of counter-lawsuits filed by members of the polygamous group.
"Everybody just walks," said F. Mark Hansen, an attorney for the Kingstons. "We wish Mary Ann well and hope she has a good life, and we're going on with ours."
Mary Ann Kingston — now known as Mary Ann Nichols — sued more than 200 members of her family and nearly a hundred of their business interests in 2003, claiming she was forced into a polygamous marriage at age 16 to her uncle, David Ortell Kingston. When she fled the marriage, she said her father beat her with a belt until she lost consciousness. John Daniel Kingston pleaded no contest to criminal charges and served jail time. David Ortell Kingston served prison time for an incest conviction.
"Our clients are reasonably happy with the outcome," said Douglas White, an attorney who has represented Nichols, her cousin LuAnn Kingston (Cooper), and the anti-polygamy group Tapestry Against Polygamy in the various lawsuits.
The legal fight dragged on for seven years and turned nasty at times, with lawyers seeking sanctions against each other and accusations of abuse flying back and forth between the sides. No money was doled out in the settlement, Hansen said, and all lawsuits have been dismissed, including a series of libel and defamation lawsuits brought by members of the Davis County Cooperative Society (which includes members of the Kingston family).
"It's the result we thought should have occurred in the beginning," he said.
Nichols and other former members involved in the lawsuits are satisfied with the outcome, White said.
"They have attempted to move on with their lives," he said Friday. "It has been an extremely difficult time for them. Mary Ann and LuAnn would say they're better off by far being out of The Order, tasting life in its normalcy, and they appreciate what has happened."
The lawsuit was costly, both sides said, but no one would discuss how much it cost to litigate the massive cases.
"It's extraordinary, let's put it that way," White said. "That was the nature of the case."
At least one former member of the Kingston group had hoped Nichols' lawsuit would have eventually had its day in court.
"I would have liked to have seen them be responsible for their acts, but apparently they're not going to be. Someday it will catch up with them," said Rowenna Erickson, a founding member of Tapestry Against Polygamy.
Still, Erickson was glad for the global settlement which attorneys said had been in the works for the past six months.
"What will be, will be," she said.
White said his clients feel that even though the lawsuits have ended, they accomplished some things through it.
"It was an attempt to right numerous wrongs and we feel some of those things got accomplished," he said. "I think it gave the entire organization cause for pause and to look to see if the things that they were doing with their members were really in their best interests."