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Finch v. O. B. Hofstetter/Anderson Trust

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 16, 2017


          Session March 8, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 14-958-IV Russell T. Perkins, Chancellor

         This appeal stems from a dispute over a tract of real property in Nashville. The plaintiff, who claims to have entered into an enforceable contract for sale of the disputed tract, brought multiple claims against multiple defendants after the land was not transferred to him. After competing cross-motions for summary judgment were filed, the trial court dismissed all of the plaintiff's claims, finding, inter alia, that the plaintiff never entered into a valid, enforceable contract regarding the subject property. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded

          G. Kline Preston, IV, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wesley Finch.

          John L. Whitfield, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Charles Garrett Anderson, Allen French Anderson, Noel A. Anderson, Holly Wilds, Kenneth W. Gilbert as Trustee of the Eunice Miller Testamentary Trust, O.B. Hofstetter, III, James Hofstetter, Jim Anderson, Jill Anderson, Christian S. Hofstetter, and Robert B. Hofstetter.

          Aaron S. Guin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Josh Anderson and Keller Williams Realty.

          John R. Jacobson, Chris Vlahos, and Katherine R. Cloud, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, William T. Chapman, IV, Individually and as Trustee for the River Road Trust, Eric Church, and Katherine Gooch Blasingame.

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.



         Background and Procedural History

         The property at issue in this appeal, hereinafter referred to as the River Road Property, is located at River Road Pike in Nashville, Tennessee. It was formerly owned by the following individuals and entities as tenants in common: Charles Garrett Anderson; Allen French Anderson; Noel A. Anderson; Holly Wilds; Hillsboro-Harpeth Corporation; Kenneth Gilbert, Trustee of the Eunice Miller Testamentary Trust; O.B. Hofstetter, III; James C. Hofstetter; Christian S. Hofstetter; and Robert B. Hofstetter (collectively, the "Former Owners"). Mr. Wesley Finch ("Mr. Finch"), who is the Plaintiff/Appellant in this matter, claims that he is entitled to the River Road Property by virtue of a document executed on June 4, 2014 (the "June 4 document"). The June 4 document consists of a Keller Williams Realty "Lot/Land Purchase and Sale Agreement" for the entirety of the River Road Property, and Mr. Finch contends that it represents a valid contract for the sale of land. Although the June 4 document is signed by Mr. Finch, there is no dispute that it is not signed by all of the Former Owners.

         According to the Former Owners' real estate agent, Josh Anderson ("Mr. Anderson"), an affiliate broker with Keller Williams Realty, the June 4 document was sent to Mr. Finch in error. Mr. Anderson claims that he called Mr. Finch subsequent to the transmission of the June 4 document to notify him that not all of the Former Owners had approved the sale of the River Road Property. Mr. Finch maintains that this did not occur. According to Mr. Finch, Mr. Anderson called him after the signing of the June 4 document to confirm the sale and to state that he was glad the parties had been able to reach a deal.

         Although Mr. Finch delivered a $50, 000.00 earnest money check in connection with the June 4 document, this check was returned to him uncashed. During a June 11, 2014 phone conversation with one of the Former Owners, Mr. Finch was informed that (a) he did not have a valid contract and (b) the Former Owners had received a higher offer. It is undisputed that the parties whose names appear on the June 4 document never closed with Mr. Finch. Indeed, no warranty deed was delivered in connection with the June 4 document, nor was the purchase price offered by Mr. Finch ever paid to the Former Owners. Rather than sell the River Road Property to Mr. Finch, the Former Owners accepted the higher offer they had received and sold the land to its current owners ("Current Owners").

         On July 2, 2014, Mr. Finch filed suit in the Davidson County Chancery Court as a result of his failure to close on the River Road Property. The complaint was asserted against the owners who had signed the June 4 document, as well as Mr. Anderson and Keller Williams Realty (collectively, the "Realtor Defendants"). Aside from requesting compensatory and punitive damages, Mr. Finch sought specific performance of his alleged contract for the purchase of the property. The same day that he filed his initial complaint, Mr. Finch registered a notice of lien lis pendens in the office of the Davidson County Register of Deeds. Approximately ten minutes after Mr. Finch filed his notice of lien lis pendens, the Current Owners registered the warranty deed that transferred the River Road Property to them.

         Shortly after the commencement of this action, on July 31, 2014, Mr. Finch filed an amended complaint, wherein he named other former owners as defendants, as well as the Current Owners. A litany of pleadings was soon filed thereafter, including the assertion of a counterclaim by the Current Owners that asked the trial court to remove the notice of lien lis pendens filed by Mr. Finch. On August 19, 2015, after the completion of some discovery, Mr. Finch filed a second amended complaint. As is reflected in his second amended complaint, Mr. Finch asserted claims against the Defendants for breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), intentional inducement to breach contract, and civil conspiracy. Among his many allegations was the assertion that the Defendants had falsely represented that they had a fully-executed contract for the sale of the property to Mr. Finch while knowing that they had not ...

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