Court upholds ruling in squabble between 2 sons of U-Haul founder

One of the sons of the founder of U-Haul International Inc. lost an appeal Wednesday against another son of the man who created the iconic vehicle rental company.

According to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling on the matter, the case centers on two of the 12 children of the late Leonard Shoen, who founded U-Haul at the age of 29 in 1945.

In the 1970s, he lost control of the company during a well-publicized family squabble that led to some of this children taking over the firm, and others fighting a decadeslong battle with the father to win it back.

Just a few years before they did, however, the wife of one of the sons, Sam Shoen, was murdered in the family’s Telluride home in 1990.

The suspicious nature of the murder, which made international news, and the fact that it went unsolved for several years, led to even more rifts between the family, with one side accusing the other of possibly having a hand in it, according to the appeals court ruling.

To help solve it, San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters, who has been sheriff of the county since 1980, got the then-popular crime television program “Unsolved Mysteries” to run a segment on the murder, which led to the arrest and conviction of Frank Marquis, who said he accidentally shot the woman during a botched burglary attempt.

In 2007, another television channel, TruTv, did a program called “Tragedy in Telluride,” which featured interviews of family members, including Sam Shoen.

In the program, Sam Shoen said he still believed the murder wasn’t completely solved and implied that it was staged to implicate him.

He went on to say that other family members were capable of committing such a crime.

That’s when another brother, Mark Shoen, sued Sam Shoen for defamation. Mark Shoen has been part of the initial side of the family that took control of the company from their father.

A San Miguel jury disagreed and ruled in favor of Sam Shoen, saying Mark Shoen couldn’t show any actual damages. The appeals court upheld that ruling.

“Mark (Shoen) contends that the trial court erred in finding that the matter was of public concern and he was a limited purpose public figure and thus applying a higher burden of proof,” the court said.

“We conclude the trial court applied the correct burden of proof because the matter was of public concern, and we need not address the public figure issue.”


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