GREER CRAIG ET AL.
PEOPLES COMMUNITY BANK
Session September 14, 2016
from the Chancery Court for Washington County No. 43240 John
C. Rambo, Chancellor
plaintiffs, Greer Craig and Lana Kaye Craig, brought an
action against Peoples Community Bank (the Bank). Their cause
of action is essentially identical to Mr. Craig's two
prior actions, each of which previously had been dismissed
with prejudice and not appealed. In the present action, the
trial court applied the doctrines of res judicata and
collateral estoppel and granted the Bank summary judgment. We
affirm. Furthermore, we find this appeal to be frivolous.
Accordingly, we remand this case to the trial court so it can
award the Bank its reasonable attorney's fees and
expenses on appeal.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Craig and Lana Kaye Craig, Jonesborough, Tennessee,
appellants, pro se.
C. Huret, Robert L. Arrington, and Andrew D. Street,
Kingsport, Tennessee, for appellee, Peoples Community Bank.
Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and John W.
McClarty, J., joined.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE
Craig, acting pro se, filed a complaint against Robert
Williams, president of the Bank, on January 6, 2015. The
complaint alleged that the Bank offered initially to finance
his business, operating as Holiday Market in Elizabethton, in
the amount of $385, 000, but that it then reduced the amount
to $270, 000. The complaint states that the Bank
"encouraged [him] to go get additional business"
and that the Bank "had his back." On March 5, 2015,
the trial court granted the Bank's motion to dismiss. The
order expressly dismissed the action with prejudice. Mr.
Craig did not appeal, so that judgment became final thirty
days after its entry. See Creech v. Addington, 281
S.W.3d 363, 377 (Tenn. 2009), citing Tenn. R. App. P.
Craig filed a second complaint against Williams on April 7,
2015, again in the latter's capacity as president of the
Bank. This time, he also sued Gary Mills, the president of
First Community Bank. According to the record before us, the
Bank is a "subdivision" of First Community Bank.
The complaint alleged:
Having been approached by a senior officer of Peoples
Community Bank, Mr. Dan Ledford, Vice President of
Operations, Johnson City, Tennessee induced me to grow my
business, the Bank has my back. This was echoed by Robert
Williams at a joint meeting at the end of October, 2012. A
presence of credible promise, substantiated by persons of
significance [sic] status to effectively carry out
the mission of "grow your business, We got your
back". I've done my part. They need to step up!
second complaint's only reference to Mills or First
Community Bank is the following:
I have lost trust with [the] Bank . . . . But maybe, just
maybe, they see my position and have no way to help. Possibly
the home office, First Community Bank, Bluefield, West
Virginia is giving decisions that are final. Therefore, I
plea to expand this appeal to include Mr. Gary Mills,
President, First Community Bank[.]
trial court dismissed this second action with prejudice by
order entered July 21, 2015. As to the defendant Williams,
the court held that the suit was barred by res judicata. As
to Mills, the court held that the complaint failed to state a
cause of action upon which relief could be granted,
"because the pro se plaintiff did not produce any
writing from the defendants satisfying the provisions of
Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-2-101(b)(1)." That
statute provides as follows:
No action shall be brought against a lender or creditor upon
any promise or commitment to lend money or to extend credit,
or upon any promise or commitment to alter, amend, renew,
extend or otherwise modify or supplement any written promise,
agreement or commitment to lend money or extend credit,
unless the promise or agreement, upon which such action shall
be brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, shall be in
writing and signed by the lender or creditor, or some other
person lawfully authorized by such lender or creditor.
Craig again failed to appeal and the judgment on the second
suit became final.
October 12, 2015, Mr. Craig filed a third and last complaint.
He was joined this time by Mrs. Craig. This is the case now
before us. The plaintiffs' complaint states, in pertinent
part, as follows:
Defendant, Peoples Community Bank approached Plaintiffs with
an unsolicited loan proposal in February, 2011, offering to
provide a loan on Plaintiffs' real property upon which
the Holiday Market is located. The initial loan offer from
the Defendant to Plaintiff was for $385, 000.00 to be based
upon a real estate appraisal value of at least $600, 000.00,
for the real property referred to above.
Relying on the banking expertise of the Defendant, the
assurances of the officers, representatives, and/or agents of
the Defendant that the Defendant would make Plaintiffs the
loan, and Defendant's expressed desire to provide
adequate financing to meet the business needs of the
Plaintiffs for operation of the Holiday Market, Plaintiffs
agreed to the loan terms and allowed Defendant to hire its
own real estate and business appraiser to do the necessary
investigation and analysis of the value of Plaintiffs'
real estate and attendant business, Holiday Market.
In further reliance upon the assurances of the Defendant and
its officers, representatives, and/or agents, that the
unsolicated [sic] loan would be arranged by
Defendant and made to Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs began spending
their own funds to improve the Holiday Market, in the amount
of approximately $110, 000.00.
The value of the Plaintiffs' real property and its
attendant business, Holiday Market, was over $600, 000, in
2012. The net income to the Plaintiffs from the operations of
the Holiday Market was over $100, 000.00 per year. However
the Defendant's hired appraiser provided a report that
stated the value of the Plaintiffs' property was only
$450, 000.00, not the true $600, 000.00 plus value of the
real estate and attendant business.
Defendant provided no justification for the low appraisal and
told the Plaintiffs they would only loan $270, 000 on the
said property and business. . . . Due to the expenditures
Plaintiffs had made from their personal funds for upgrades to
the Holiday Market in good faith reliance upon the assurances
of the Defendant and its officers, representatives, and/or
agents, Plaintiffs were placed under undue influence and
undue economic duress by the Defendant to agree to the
reduced loan amount and additional costs and expenses or get
no loan at all and lose all their personal funds and sweat
equity they had invested in the improvements to the Holiday
In further reliance upon the business and banking expertise
of the Defendant and the assurances of its officers,
representatives, and/or agents, Plaintiffs agreed to the
reduced loan amount and the additional expenses . . . and
after the loan was made, continued to spend approximately
$50, 000.00 more of their own funds to grow the businesses of
the Holiday and Uncle Dan's Gashouse, Jonesborough,
However, because of the valuation by the Defendant's
appraiser and the inducements promised by the Defendant, its
officers, representatives, and/or agents, the Plaintiffs
could not pay down the indebtedness owed against the real
property by an amount sufficient to make the business able to
pay all its debts, and now Plaintiffs face the prospect of
personal bankruptcy and loss of their real property and
business to foreclosure by the Defendant.
(Paragraph numbering in original omitted.)
Bank moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the
motion for summary judgment in an order ...