United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Michael Grant, Plaintiff: Mark T. Freeman, Nashville, TN.
Lisa Tucker, Defendant, Pro se, Erin, TN.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
KEVIN H. SHARP, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
The Court held a bench trial in this matter on August 5, 2013, after which the parties were instructed to file post-trial briefs. Plaintiff filed his brief on September 10, 2013.
Having reviewed Plaintiff's brief, the record, the exhibits received in evidence, and the testimony of the witnesses, after considering their interests and demeanor, the Court enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Except where the Court discusses different testimony on a specific issue, any contrary testimony on a specific matter has been rejected in favor of the specific fact found. Further, the Court omits from its recitation facts that it deems to be immaterial to the issues presented. To the extent the testimony of Defendant was contradicted by the testimony of Plaintiff, the Court finds that Defendant, in general, was not a credible witness. The credibility determination is based upon the inconsistencies between her testimony, her demeanor and evasiveness while testifying.
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff is a British citizen who lives in Watford, United Kingdom, and Defendant resides in Erin, Tennessee. In 2006, Plaintiff and Defendant met online through a dating website called Equestrian Singles. They both had a passion for horses. In fact, Plaintiff has been involved with horses for over thirty years. Through some conversations, Plaintiff understood that Defendant was breeding horses in Tennessee.
The parties eventually became romantically involved. Plaintiff visited Tennessee and stayed with Defendant on several occasions, and on one particular occasion stayed for several months. As their relationship grew, so did the idea that they would pursue a horse breeding business in Tennessee. Plaintiff's ultimate plan was to relocate to Erin, Tennessee and pursue this breeding business with Defendant. Plaintiff was under the impression that they both had decided to invest monies into the breeding business, with Defendant willing to put in monies coming in from a disability and Plaintiff willing to invest an equal amount in the business through income from being a truck driver and through mortgaging his parents' residence.
As part of this business venture, Plaintiff decided that he would purchase property that had come up for sale in Erin, Tennessee, and Defendant knew that
Plaintiff was borrowing money to purchase the property through a mortgage on his parents' residence. It was Plaintiff's understanding that it would be his house, but after they married, it would be their house. It was also his understanding that he could not purchase the property since he was not in America, and Defendant would purchase it on his behalf. Defendant sent Plaintiff an email stating, " Lawyer called today. In order for me to put you on the deed, you need a Social Security number. He said you can go to the embassy and get a U.S. citizen to notarize a power of attorney and could try to put it on there, but it would be a delay." (Trial Exhibit No. 2). Based on the email and because he did not want to risk losing the property, Plaintiff instructed Defendant to sign on his behalf. Based on his experience with the U.S. Embassy, Plaintiff knew he would not be able to just walk into the Embassy and ask for paperwork. Plaintiff would have to obtain an appointment, which could have taken as long as six months and there would not have been any way for him to obtain the necessary documents in time for the closing deadline. Plaintiff further understood from Defendant that the seller of the property needed to have it sold before the end of the year, and if the closing did not take place by the end of the year, they would not get the property.
Subsequently, Plaintiff transferred the necessary funds to purchase the property under the belief that Defendant was purchasing the property on his behalf. It was only later that he found out his belief was wrong. According to Defendant, the property was a gift to her -- and the monies Plaintiff sent her were gifts so that she could purchase the property. Plaintiff testified that he would have never sent the money to purchase the property had he known that the property was not going to be placed in his name. His intent was not to give this property to Defendant as a gift. Plaintiff tendered at closing $76,182.41 -- with the funds he used to mortgage his parents' home in the United Kingdom.
Through that mortgage he obtained 50,000 pounds, which equated to roughly $96,000.00 American dollars. The amount transferred from Plaintiff to Defendant was $96,952.25. The difference between the approximately $76,000.00 that was tendered at the closing and approximately $96,000.00 that was transferred to Defendant was to be spent by Defendant to make improvements on the property.
Plaintiff also sent money to Defendant on a number of occasions, not only to help with the horses, but also to help Defendant handle some of her personal obligations. In total, Plaintiff made cash payments to Defendant in the amount of $66,947.59. Shortly after the purchase of the home, Defendant obtained a title loan on the property in the amount of $8,000.00 and informed Plaintiff that the house would be lost if he did not immediately send to her $8,000.00 to pay off the title loan. It was then that Plaintiff realized the property was not in his name as he had believed. Plaintiff sent monies to pay off the title loan. It was not until after Plaintiff sent her the money for the purchase of the property and after the title loan was paid that Defendant told him she did not want to make her hobby into a business as they had previously discussed. Plaintiff realized he had been duped and stopped sending money to her.
Defendant admitted that the parties had discussed raising funds together to try and purchase the property, yet she had no money at the time. She admitted to being disabled for quite some time and did not contribute any of her money to the purchase of the ...