Family members dispute stake in H.J. Born Stone through lawsuit

WICHITA — One of Wichita’s most established stone companies is the source of a family dispute that’s resulted in a lawsuit.

At issue is ownership of H. J. Born Stone. According to the company’s website, the business has been in the same family since 1949.

Betty Born filed the lawsuit as a trustee of her late husband John Born Jr.’s revocable trust. The suit, filed in Sedgwick County District Court, seeks a temporary and permanent injunction and restraining order against Sharon Born, daughter of H.J. Born and cousin of John Born.

According to the lawsuit, Sharon Born agreed to sell an interest in H.J. Born Stone to John Born in 2010. John Born was then diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, the suit says, the plaintiffs notified Sharon Born of the illness and assured her that if anything should happen to John Born, his life insurance would guarantee payments of promissory notes to her.

John Born died Sept. 8. The suit says his widow contacted Sharon Born less than two weeks later to offer payment on the notes, but Sharon Born rejected her attempts because she was too busy with her family’s own estate.

According to the suit, on Sept. 21 Sharon Born used her attorney to deliver notice to Betty Born that she demanded the entire balance of the promissory notes and declared default because of John Born’s death.

The lawsuit contends that the first promissory payments weren’t due until Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and that at no time were Betty or John Born behind in payments or in default.

The suit says Sharon Born “inappropriately seeks a controlling ownership interest” in H.J. Born Stone and a related company, TJ Leasing, and “that she seeks a hostile takeover of both companies.”

Neither side will discuss the case.

“The case involves a small family business,” said Jim Walker, Betty Born’s attorney. “We are confident it will be resolved soon in a mutually satisfactory way.”

Todd Shadid, Sharon Born’s attorney, said in an e-mail, “In light of the statement made by Jim Walker, we have nothing further to add.”