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Tennison Brothers, Inc. v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 15, 2017

TENNISON BROTHERS, INC., ET AL.
v.
WILLIAM H. THOMAS, JR.

          Session September 20, 2017

         Direct Appeal from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-08-1310 Jim Kyle, Chancellor

         This appeal involves parties with interests in neighboring properties who competed for the issuance of a billboard permit. Rather than waiting for the resolution of the administrative process that would determine which of the two applicants was entitled to a billboard permit, one party illegally constructed his billboard without a permit in the midst of the proceedings. Because of his action, the opposing party was unable to construct a billboard when the litigation ultimately ended in its favor. The party who prevailed in the administrative process and its landlord both obtained default judgments against the party who constructed the billboard based on claims of intentional interference with business relations and inducement to breach a contract. The trial court appointed a special master to calculate damages and adopted the master's report in its entirety, awarding the landlord approximately $1.1 million and awarding the party who planned to construct the billboard $3.9 million, which included treble damages. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

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

          Jonathan Lynn Miley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William H. Thomas, Jr.

          Kathy Baker Tennison and Stuart Brian Breakstone, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennison Brothers, Inc.

          Robert L.J. Spence, Jr. and Kristina Alicia Woo, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc.

          Brandon O. Gibosn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy D. Bennett, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.

          OPINION

          BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE

         I. Facts & Procedural History

         Tennison Brothers, Inc. owns property near the convergence of two major interstate highways in Memphis, Tennessee. Due to the volume of traffic on the nearby interstates, the Tennison Brothers property is a prime location for a billboard. On August 19, 2004, Tennison Brothers entered into a lease agreement with Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., whereby Tennison Brothers leased its property to Clear Channel for the purpose of erecting a billboard. The lease term was to commence on September 1, 2004, and extend for twenty years. Clear Channel was required to pay Tennison Brothers $1, 000 upon execution of the lease, and when construction of the billboard was complete, its annual rent obligation would begin at the rate of $15, 600 per year with a three percent increase each year thereafter.

         Southern Millwork and Lumber Company owns property adjacent to the Tennison Brothers property. Days after the execution of the lease between Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel, on August 23, 2004, Southern Millwork entered into a lease with William Thomas, Jr., permitting Thomas to construct a billboard on the Southern Millwork property.

         Tennessee's Billboard Regulation and Control Act provides that no person can construct a billboard within 660 feet of an interstate highway right-of-way (unless otherwise provided in the Act) without first obtaining a billboard permit from the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation ("TDOT"). Tenn. Code Ann. § 54-21-104(a). TDOT Regulations further provide that no two structures shall be spaced less than 1000 feet apart on the same side of the highway. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-02-03-.03(1)(a)(4)(i)(I). The site for Clear Channel's proposed billboard on the Tennison Brothers property was approximately fifty feet from the site for Thomas's proposed billboard on the Southern Millwork property, so only one of the proposed billboards could legally be constructed.

         TDOT Regulations provide that applications will be considered "on a first come, first served basis." Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-02-03-.03(1)(a)(7)(v).[1] Thomas was the first to apply for a TDOT permit. His application packet was received on August 24, 2004. It included a copy of the lease agreement between Thomas and Southern Millwork, but the property owner's signature was not notarized. On August 27, 2004, TDOT informed Thomas that his application was being returned for failure to have the property owner's signature notarized as required by TDOT Regulations.[2] That same day, TDOT received Clear Channel's application for a permit to construct a billboard on the Tennison Brothers property. Clear Channel's application was deemed complete, and it was ultimately approved. In the meantime, Thomas resubmitted his application with the required notarization, but TDOT ultimately denied his application in light of the spacing requirement and Clear Channel's recently approved application for a billboard at its site fifty feet away.

         Thomas requested a hearing after the denial of his application. As a result, TDOT voided the billboard permit that Clear Channel had been granted pending the outcome of Thomas's appeal. Clear Channel requested a hearing regarding this action as well. After a hearing regarding both applications, an administrative law judge entered an "Initial Order" concluding that Clear Channel's application should have also been rejected because even though it contained a notarized signature of the property owner, the person who notarized it served as the real estate manager for Clear Channel. Because Thomas's re-submitted application would have been "next in line for review, " the administrative law judge concluded that Thomas's re-submitted application should be approved and that Clear Channel's previously issued permit should remain "voided." This initial order from the administrative law judge was entered on October 20, 2005.

         Clear Channel timely filed a petition for reconsideration of the initial order and then an appeal to the Commissioner of TDOT, such that the initial order never became a final order.[3] Nevertheless, in reliance on the reasoning contained in the initial order, Thomas proceeded to construct a billboard on the Southern Millwork property despite the fact that he did not have a permit from TDOT. He acquired a local building permit from Shelby County, which was also necessary in order to construct a billboard, and built the structure in November 2005. Unbeknownst to either TDOT, Tennison Brothers, or Clear Channel, in December 2005, Thomas sold the unpermitted billboard to CBS Outdoor for $188, 600, representing to CBS Outdoor that the permitting matters had been resolved and that TDOT had been ordered to issue the permit. However, for the next several years, Thomas continued to participate in the administrative proceedings regarding the TDOT permits as if he still held a lease on the property and owned the unpermitted billboard.

         On May 18, 2006, the Commissioner of TDOT overturned the initial order entered by the administrative law judge and concluded that Clear Channel's application was not improper as a result of the notarization by its real estate manager. The Commissioner remanded the matter, with instructions, for further consideration by the administrative law judge. On March 5, 2007, the administrative law judge entered another initial order, this time concluding that Clear Channel's application was properly approved and that the TDOT permit should again be granted to Clear Channel, while Thomas's application should be denied. The administrative law judge specifically ruled that the billboard Thomas constructed without a permit was illegal and "should be immediately removed." On July 31, 2007, the Commissioner of TDOT entered a final order affirming the decision of the administrative law judge. Thomas argued before the Commissioner that he was justified in constructing the billboard without a permit due to the finding in the original initial order. However, the Commissioner rejected this argument as "spurious and utterly without merit." Simply put, the Commissioner explained, "An Initial Order is not a permit." The Commissioner noted that the initial order was appealed and that TDOT had never issued a permit to Thomas for his proposed billboard. The

         Commissioner found that Thomas's actions in constructing and operating a billboard without a permit were a clear violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 54-21-104 and that the illegal billboard should be immediately removed. Even though Thomas no longer owned the billboard at issue (still unbeknownst to the other parties), Thomas filed a petition for judicial review of the Commissioner's final order in the chancery court of Davidson County pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act ("UAPA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-322.

         While the UAPA petition for judicial review remained pending in Davidson County, Tennison Brothers instituted the present action on July 16, 2008, by filing a complaint for damages in the chancery court of Shelby County, naming Thomas, Southern Millwork, and Clear Channel as defendants.[4] The complaint described the lease executed in 2004 by Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel for the construction of a billboard and the ensuing litigation regarding the billboard perimts. The complaint alleged that Thomas constructed his billboard on neighboring property in November 2005 even though no permit for the location was ever issued by TDOT. The complaint described the orders entered by the administrative law judge and the Commissioner of TDOT in 2007 instructing Thomas to immediately remove the illegal billboard, but according to the complaint, the illegally constructed billboard still had not been removed by the time the complaint was filed in July 2008. According to the complaint, the defendants refused to remove the billboard and continued to update it and profit from new advertisements. Tennison Brothers alleged that the illegally constructed billboard and Thomas's refusal to remove it interfered with the planned construction of the billboard on the Tennison Brothers property. The complaint specifically referenced the 1000-feet spacing requirement imposed by TDOT regulations. The causes of action Tennison Brothers asserted against Thomas included intentional interference with business relationships and common law and statutory inducement to breach a contract.[5]Essentially, Tennison Brothers alleged that Thomas improperly interfered with and intentionally caused the termination of the lease between Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel by constructing a billboard without a permit and then refusing to remove it. Tennison Brothers sought compensatory damages and treble damages pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-50-109 (providing for treble damages for a statutory claim of inducement to breach a contract). Tennison Brothers also alleged that Thomas's actions were malicious and intentional, entitling Tennison Brothers to punitive damages. The complaint also included a breach of contract claim against Clear Channel. Tennison Brothers alleged that its lease agreement with Clear Channel was breached based on "a breach of the implied reasonable time of performance, " as almost four years had passed since the lease agreement was executed.

         Clear Channel filed an answer and a cross-complaint against Thomas (and Southern Millwork). In its answer to the breach of contract claim, Clear Channel admitted that performance under the lease agreement had been delayed as a result of the actions of Thomas, but Clear Channel denied that it had breached its lease agreement with Tennison Brothers. Then, in its cross-complaint, Clear Channel asserted various causes of action against Thomas, including intentional interference with a business relationship. Clear Channel also alleged that Thomas's tortious interference "procured a breach or violation" of the contract between Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel, entitling Clear Channel to compensatory damages and treble damages pursuant to the statute governing a claim for statutory inducement to breach a contract.

         In December 2008, Thomas filed answers to the original complaint filed by Tennison Brothers and the cross-complaint filed by Clear Channel.[6] Due to ongoing discovery disputes, the trial judge, Chancellor Arnold Goldin, appointed a special master to make recommendations concerning motions to compel that were filed against Thomas. In a May 2009 report, the special master found that Thomas was served with discovery in September 2008 shortly after the complaint was filed and that his responses since then were "deficient as a matter of law." Thomas, who is himself a licensed attorney, raised general objections to all discovery rather than objecting to each individual request. The special master deemed his responses "woefully insufficient." In August 2009, the trial court adopted the report of the special master and his recommendation that Thomas be required to answer the discovery subject to some qualifications.

         Tennison Brothers subsequently filed a third motion to compel seeking sanctions, and Clear Channel filed a motion for sanctions and default judgment because Thomas still had not adequately responded to the discovery filed over a year earlier, despite the special master's report and the trial court's order. In November 2009, the trial court entered an order striking Thomas's answers and granting default judgment in favor of Clear Channel and Tennison Brothers. The trial court noted that Thomas had refused to produce "even one document" responsive to the discovery requests of Tennison Brothers or Clear Channel despite two orders from the court requiring him to do so, and the court found that Thomas had displayed "a clear record of willful delay and contumacious conduct." Although default judgment was entered against Thomas, the issue of damages would be determined at a later hearing.

         Also in November 2009, Thomas was ordered to testify after failing to comply with written discovery requests. During his testimony, Thomas revealed for the first time that he no longer had an interest in the unpermitted billboard because he had sold his leasehold interest in the real property as well as the billboard structure itself to CBS Outdoor in December 2005. As a result of this disclosure, the trial court entered an order "joining" CBS Outdoor as a party defendant pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 19.01 and granted the parties leave to amend their pleadings. Tennison Brothers amended its complaint to also assert claims against CBS Outdoor for intentional interference with business relationships and common law and statutory inducement to breach a contract. CBS Outdoor filed an answer admitting that it purchased the billboard and lease from Thomas but claiming that it was unaware of the TDOT orders requiring removal of the billboard until it was joined in this litigation. Tennison Brothers eventually settled its claims against CBS Outdoor for $5, 000, and an agreed order of dismissal was entered dismissing CBS Outdoor from the case.

         The revelation about the sale of the billboard also prompted Clear Channel and TDOT to file a motion to dismiss Thomas's UAPA petition for judicial review, which was still pending in Davidson County, for lack of standing and mootness. The Davidson County Chancery Court granted the motion and dismissed the UAPA proceeding for lack of standing and mootness. This Court ultimately affirmed the dismissal based on lack of standing and mootness, concluding that Thomas had "render[ed] himself ineligible to receive the permits" by selling his interest in both the real property and the billboard structure itself. See Thomas v. Tenn. Dep't of Transp., No. M2010-01925-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 3433015, at *8 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 5, 2011). After this Court affirmed dismissal of Thomas's UAPA petition for judicial review of the TDOT decision, TDOT finally re-issued the billboard permit to Clear Channel. However, despite having obtained the necessary TDOT permit, Clear Channel was still unable to legally construct a billboard on the Tennison Brothers site because the necessary local permit from Shelby County had been obtained by Thomas in connection with his construction of the unpermitted billboard in 2005 and transferred to CBS Outdoor.[7] The unpermitted billboard still remained standing. TDOT eventually voided the permit it issued to Clear Channel after 180 days due to its failure to build.

         In April 2010, Tennison Brothers filed yet another motion for sanctions against Thomas in the present litigation due to his failure to appear for his deposition and his continued refusal to produce requested documents. As a sanction, Tennison Brothers proposed that Thomas be prohibited from presenting any evidence at the hearing on damages. In June 2010, the trial court entered an order concluding that Thomas failed to appear at his deposition without justification, and as a result, he would not be allowed to present proof related to damages. The court clarified, however, that Thomas would be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses presented by other parties related to damages.

         After this ruling, the case was transferred to another division of chancery court for hearing by another chancellor, Chancellor Kenny Armstrong. At that point, Thomas filed a motion to set aside the default judgment entered by Chancellor Goldin, arguing that the decision was extreme and unwarranted. After a hearing, Chancellor Armstrong denied the motion to set aside the default judgment.

         The hearing on damages (or writ of inquiry of damages)[8] was finally held on January 7, 2013, three years after the default judgment was granted. The billboard Thomas constructed still remained standing as of the date of the hearing in 2013, despite the TDOT order to immediately remove it back in 2007. The only witnesses to testify were the manager of Tennison Brothers and the real estate manager for Clear Channel. Numerous exhibits were also introduced, including a report from an expert witness and valuation analyst retained by Clear Channel, and some deposition testimony was also read into the record. Although other claims were mentioned in the complaints, at the hearing on damages, Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel only sought to recover damages for intentional interference with business relations and common law and/or statutory inducement to breach a contract. Tennison Brothers calculated its damages based on the annual lease payments that it would have received from Clear Channel if Clear Channel had been able to construct its billboard in accordance with the twenty-year lease. Clear Channel calculated its damages based on the projected lost profits from advertisements on the proposed billboard that it was unable to construct. Clear Channel's expert calculated its lost profits based on similar billboards located in Memphis. In addition to hearing testimony regarding damages, Chancellor Armstrong also instructed the plaintiffs that "you've still got to prove your claim, " despite the previous entry of a default judgment against Thomas. Thomas argued that the claims for damages should be dismissed because he had sold the unpermitted billboard and no longer maintained control over it. In response, the plaintiffs argued that Thomas's liability had already been determined by the entry of a default judgment, and therefore, his arguments regarding lack of control were irrelevant.

         On July 10, 2013, the trial court entered its written order containing findings from the writ of inquiry of damages. At the outset, the trial court examined the effect of Chancellor Goldin's 2009 order striking Thomas's answers and granting default judgment against him in favor of Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel. The court acknowledged that because of the default judgment, the court was required to "consider as true" the well-pled allegations contained in the complaints, but the court went on to find that some of the allegations in the complaints were not "consistent with the proof in the record." Despite the contrary allegations in the complaints, the court concluded, based on the "proof presented, " that Thomas did not have an improper motive, as required to support a claim of intentional interference with business relationships. The trial court also concluded that a breach of the underlying contract between Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel did not occur, as required to support a claim of common law or statutory inducement to breach a contract. As such, the trial court ultimately denied all claims for damages asserted by Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel. Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel appealed to this Court.

         On appeal, this Court concluded that the trial court "erred in considering the issue of liability because the well-pled facts contained in the Appellants' respective complaints were dispositive on that question upon the grant of default judgment." Tennison Bros. v. Thomas, No. W2013-01835-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 3845122, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2014) ("Tennison I").[9] However, we went on to consider the issue of liability as well, reasoning that appellate courts may consider "the sufficiency of the . . . complaint to sustain the decree of judgment." Id. at *8 (citing 5 C.J.S. Appeal & Error § 718 (1993); Edington v. Michigan Mut. Life Ins. Co., 183 S.W. 728, 729 (Tenn. 1915)). Engaging in the same analysis applicable to a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss, we examined the sufficiency of the complaints filed by Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel to determine whether the causes of action were sufficiently pled. Id. In other words, we looked to the complaints to determine whether they sufficiently alleged all of the requisite elements of each cause of action asserted. Id. at *9. Ultimately, we concluded that both Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel pled facts sufficient to satisfy the prima facie requirements for claims of intentional interference with business relationships and inducement to breach a contract. Id. at *13-14. Accordingly, we concluded that Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel "are entitled to damages against Mr. Thomas for the foregoing causes of action, " and we remanded "for a determination of the appropriate damages." Id. at *15. We said that Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel were "entitled to elect between treble damages and punitive damages" on remand. Id.

         The proceedings on remand took place before Chancellor Jim Kyle. Despite this Court's opinion in Tennison I, on remand, Thomas insisted that the trial court was still required to determine not only the amount of damages but also whether Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel were entitled to damages. Thomas argued, again, that neither plaintiff was entitled to recover damages from him because he sold the unpermitted billboard in 2005 and no longer maintained control over it. He also argued that the trial court was not required to follow our decision in Tennison I because it was wrongly decided. For instance, despite the allegations in the plaintiffs' complaints that the unpermitted billboard structure was "illegal, " and despite the final order from the TDOT administrative proceeding deeming the billboard "illegal, " Thomas insisted that the unpermitted billboard was not illegal and that it did not actually interfere with Clear Channel's ability to construct a billboard on the Tennison Brothers property. The factual basis for this argument was that the unpermitted billboard was currently advertising for the store located on the Southern Millwork property, and therefore, according to Thomas's interpretation of the TDOT regulations, the sign would no longer need a permit from TDOT, was not illegal, and would not be considered for purposes of the TDOT spacing requirement.

         Aside from any TDOT permitting issues, Thomas admitted that Clear Channel was still unable to construct its proposed billboard due to the fact that it did not hold the necessary Shelby County permit for a billboard. The Shelby County permit was admittedly obtained by Thomas and transferred to CBS Outdoor in connection with the sale of the billboard Thomas constructed in 2005. Because of a spacing requirement in the Shelby County ordinance, Thomas admitted that "as long as CBS [Outdoor] holds the local permit, Clear Channel can never receive a local permit for the Tennison site even if it were to apply for it and, most importantly, even if it properly held the TDOT permit." However, Thomas claimed that his actions in connection with the local Shelby County permit could not be considered in this litigation because the complaints only specifically mentioned the TDOT permit, not the Shelby County permit. In sum, Thomas claimed that his allegedly wrongful conduct as stated in the complaints was not the legal cause of the plaintiffs' damages. In response, Clear Channel and Tennison Brothers argued that Thomas should not be permitted to relitigate issues of causation and the legality of his actions due to the entry of the default judgment and this Court's decision in Tennison I.

         Chancellor Kyle referred the matter to a special master for a determination of the amount of damages and Thomas's financial status as it related to the issue of punitive damages. The trial court's order directed the special master to calculate damages against Thomas for the causes of action of intentional interference with business relationships and inducement to breach a contract. The special master was directed to submit a report outlining his findings to the court for a final determination of damages.

         The parties' attorneys met with the special master and decided to rely on the testimony and exhibits presented at the original writ of inquiry hearing before Chancellor Armstrong rather than presenting additional live testimony. Nonetheless, the special master held a hearing, and additional exhibits and calculations were submitted for his consideration. On August 14, 2015, the special master issued a 33-page report as to the calculation of damages. Although the twenty-year lease between Clear Channel and Tennison Brothers commenced on September 1, 2004, the special master determined that damages should be calculated beginning April 1, 2007. As noted above, the lease provided that annual rent would be owed once construction of the billboard was complete. The special master reasoned that Clear Channel could have constructed the billboard after the administrative law judge ruled in March 2007 that Thomas's billboard was illegal and must be immediately removed. The special master calculated the compensatory damages owed to Tennison Brothers by looking to the annual rent provided in the lease that would have been owed for the remainder of the twenty year term, extending through September 2024. The special master found that the amount of compensatory damages should be trebled and that prejudgment interest should be added, but also, a credit of $5, 000 should be deducted for the amount Tennison Brothers had already received in its settlement with CBS Outdoors. The special master did not make a specific recommendation regarding a total sum owed to Tennison Brothers because the total would depend on the date of the final order entered by the trial court.

         Next, the special master considered the report filed by Clear Channel's expert witness regarding its lost profits. The special master found the expert's testimony credible and his opinions to be based on appropriate data. The special master accepted the expert's calculation that Clear Channel's lost net profits each month equaled $6, 200. The special master concluded that this amount of compensatory damages should be awarded for the same period, from April 1, 2007, through September 2024, and trebled pursuant to the applicable statute. However, the special master did not recommend an award of prejudgment interest because the amount owed was not easily calculable. The special master also made a recommendation as to punitive damages, if elected by either plaintiff.

         The trial court held a hearing to hear the parties' arguments regarding the special master's report. Tennison Brothers and Clear Channel notified the court of their intention to elect treble damages rather than punitive damages. At the hearing, the special master testified as to how he followed the instructions of the court and calculated the parties' damages. Thereafter, the trial court entered an order confirming and adopting the special master's report in its entirety. The trial court subsequently entered a final judgment awarding Tennison Brothers $1, 094, 670.94 and awarding Clear Channel $3, 906, 000. Thomas filed a one-hundred-page motion to alter or amend, which the trial court denied. After a Rule 54.02 certification, Thomas timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.[10]

         II. Issues Presented

         Thomas raises twelve issues, which we quote from his brief on appeal (but list in a different order):

1. Whether portions of the order previously entered [by Chancellor Goldin] limiting Thomas'[s] ability to present a defense are unconscionable and should be declared void;
2. Whether Clear Channel's and Tennison's complaints fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, therefore Thomas cannot be held liable for their alleged claims;
3. Whether the trial court and the parties applied an erroneous interpretation to the Court of Appeals decision [in Tennison I] which resulted in manifest injustice contrary to all legal standards of fairness and legality;
4. Whether the ruling by the Court of Appeals [in Tennison I] addressed all relevant and indispensable legal issues and if not was the trial court required to address them before it could make an assessment of "appropriate damages" as mandated by the Court of Appeals;
5. Whether even if Clear Channel's and Tennison's complaints had stated valid claims, the parties have failed to prove a causal nexus between Thomas's (purely technical) wrongful conduct and their claimed damages and therefore are entitled to merely nominal damages;
6. Whether the trial court was legally entitled to blindly adopt the special master's report without further consideration of key legal issues after failing to properly instruct the special master as to findings of fact and conclusions of law;
7. Whether the parties established with certainty and by competent, non-speculative evidence their entitlement to their claimed damages;
8. Whether the parties are entitled to future damages;
9. Whether the evidence in the record (regardless of who proffered it) demonstrated that the parties failed to mitigate their claimed damages;
10. Whether the parties demonstrated that they are both legally and factually entitled to recover treble and/or punitive damages;
11. Whether the trial court should have stricken the deposition testimony of TDOT employees . . . entered into evidence by Defendant [Thomas] as unimpeachable proof that the parties' claims are false as a matter of law;
12. What impact does the Tennessee Billboard Act having been declared unconstitutional have on the present matter.

         Clear Channel and Tennison Brothers ask this Court to affirm the trial court's awards in their entirety. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the chancery court and remand for further proceedings.

         III. Discussion

         A. Discovery Sanctions

         We begin with Thomas's argument that the order entered by Chancellor Goldin limiting Thomas's ability to present evidence regarding damages is unconscionable and void. To briefly recap, the order at issue was entered on June 4, 2010.[11] At that point, the trial court had already entered an order imposing discovery sanctions against Thomas on November 20, 2009, striking his answers and granting default judgment against him because he refused to comply with two prior orders regarding discovery. Although Thomas is a licensed attorney, the special master deemed his discovery responses "woefully insufficient, " and the trial court found that Thomas had failed to produce even one document responsive to the discovery requests of Tennison ...


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