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Lyons III v. Atchley

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

January 20, 2015

MASTON G. LYONS, III, ET AL.
v.
FIELDING H. ATCHLEY, JR.

Session October 29, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 09 C 1561 Lawrence H. Puckett, Judge Sitting By Interchange

Maston G. Lyons, III, and Linda C. Lyons, Hixson, Tennessee, pro se appellants.

Arthur P. Brock, and William J. Rieder, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Fielding H. Atchley, Jr.

D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

OPINION

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE

Background

Defendant represented Mrs. Lyons in a legal matter involving Sylvan Learning Center, which was concluded in early 2007. During that representation, Mrs. Lyons consulted with Defendant about another case, Lyons v. Leffew, a previously existing case that Plaintiffs had filed pro se seeking specific performance of an alleged contract for the sale of real property. Plaintiffs assert that they hired Defendant to represent them in Lyons v. Leffew. Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs consulted him, but never actually hired him with regard to Lyons v. Leffew.

Plaintiffs learned in March 2009 that a default judgment against them had been entered in July of 2008 in Lyons v. Leffew. Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant in December of 2009 alleging that Defendant had breached a duty that "cost the Plaintiffs their fair and complete hearing in Lyons v. Leffew et al., " and that the alleged breach had "costs [sic] the Plaintiffs their fiduciary interest in said case."

Both Plaintiffs and Defendant filed motions for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Trial Court entered its order on November 26, 2012 granting Defendant summary judgment after finding and holding, inter alia, that "the failure of [Defendant] to pursue Lyons v. Leffew on [Plaintiffs'] behalf as a matter of law and in fact (as undisputed in the material facts before the court) did not cause plaintiffs any loss."

On December 19, 2012 Plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend and a motion seeking sanctions against Defendant's attorney pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 11. In the motion for sanctions Plaintiffs state, among other things:

The Plaintiffs state that because of the defense's meritless [sic] filings valuable resources have been wasted in the process. The defenses' [sic] continuing claims of legal malpractice while the plaintiffs were claiming no work was done to utilize [Defendant's] legal expertise and the plaintiffs' Complaint based in tort and now the defense's unsubstantiated claims in reference to the underlying case of Lyons v. Leffew demonstrate the lack of reasonable inquiry into all the facts and the law.

After a hearing the Trial Court entered its order on March 14, 2014 denying both Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend and Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions. In the March 14, 2014 order the Trial Court also awarded Defendant reasonable attorney's fees of $1, 271.00 for opposing Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court.

Discussion

We restate the issues on appeal as: 1) whether the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendant, and 2) whether the Trial Court erred in awarding attorney's fees to Defendant for opposing Plaintiffs' Rule 11 motion for sanctions.

We first address whether the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendant. As this case was filed prior to July of 2011, we utilize the summary judgment standard ...


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