ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – New motions have been filed in the Summer Wells Reward Fund lawsuit.
The Church Hill Rescue Squad filed the lawsuit on June 30, 2022 asking for a judge to determine who gets the $40,305.47 of the Summer Wells Reward Fund.
Summer’s parents, Don and Candus Wells, have been added as defendants in the suit, and the Children’s Advocacy Center has filed an answer asking the judge to make them the beneficiary of the fund.
“If it wasn’t used for that specific purpose that they’ll get a refund or did they understand if it’s not used for that specific purpose it’s going to go to [Children’s Advocacy Center]? I think that’s the issue to determine,” said Joseph McMurray, an attorney with R. Wayne Culbertson, P.P.C. in Kingsport.
McMurry isn’t affiliated with the case but says that for the judge to have a valid ruling, all parties who could have a claim on the money in the fund must be notified.
“You have to comply with one thing, and that is doing your due diligence. If they do have an address, telephone number, any information on some of these donors,” said McMurray. “They would have to exhaust reasonable efforts in order to locate these individuals.”
The only defendant named in the lawsuit to file an official response is the Children’s Advocacy Center, which asked the judge to grant the organization the money.
The rescue squad’s attorney also filed a motion adding Don and Candus Wells as defendants in the case.
“I can only speculate, but after contemplating the lawsuit and thinking it over, potentially I suppose some of the parties actually considered that maybe Don Wells or Candus Wells have some kind of interest in this money,” said McMurray.
Don and Candus Wells declined an interview with News Channel 11, but a spokesperson for the family did release a statement.
“The Wells have remained separate from the reward fund from the beginning. Their only request in the past was that the timeline be extended. At this time, they prefer to have nothing to do with the issue and did not request nor give any affirmation that they would like to be a [defendant] or plaintiff in any manner concerning the Summer Wells Reward Fund. However, they will comply to the court document if the matter is not resolved. They are grateful for all the kind individuals who donated but do not understand how it became such an issue and definitely never asked to personally be a part of it. They also did/do not expect to personally benefit from the money other than their great desire that the reward fund might have inspired a faster conclusion to finding their daughter Summer Moon-Utah Wells.”Wells Family Spokesperson
So, what’s next?
Allen Coup, the attorney for the Church Hill Rescue Squad, declined to comment on the suit but did send a letter to News Channel 11 saying a Notice of Service by publication will appear in the Rogersville Review.
“After this runs and 30 days has expired, the judge would be able to adjudicate the rights of these individuals, whether or not it’s a fake name, whether or not they read the paper,” said McMurray. “They have checked all the boxes in order for the judge to be in a place where he can make a ruling and it would actually stick.”
The notice will circulate for four consecutive weeks and all parties will have 30 days from the last publication date to respond.
That letter from the Rescue Squad’s attorney said they hope this will be placed on the court’s docket in February 2023. The Children’s Advocacy Center’s director declined to comment since this involves pending litigation.
The AMBER Alert for Summer Wells remains active. If you have credible information that could help find her, call 1-800-TBI-Find.