Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Justice v. Nelson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

December 10, 2019

LORING JUSTICE
v.
KIM NELSON ET AL.

          Session August 21, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Loudon County No. 2017-CV-78 Walter C. Kurtz, Senior Judge [1]

         Loring Justice and Kim Nelson are the divorced parents of a minor child. They have been in litigation over the child since 2004. This appeal arises from a lawsuit filed by Mr. Justice (plaintiff) against Ms. Nelson, Robert Bodine, and two unidentified co-conspirators (defendants). In his original complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendants were liable for: conspiracy to commit the crime of extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with parental rights. Defendants filed motions to dismiss, which the trial court granted. Exactly thirty days later, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. He alleged additional facts and new causes of action, including: fraud, coercion, attempted tortious interference with parental rights, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. Defendants filed a "response" to the amended complaint. They argued that the court should deny plaintiff leave to amend his original complaint. The court treated defendants' "response" as a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, which the court then granted. We hold that the court erred when it treated defendants' "response" as a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. We also hold that the court failed to provide adequate justification for dismissing the amended complaint sua sponte. Accordingly, we vacate the order of dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Vacated; Case Remanded

          Linn Guerrero, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Loring E. Justice. [2]

          John McFarland, Kingston, Tennessee, for the appellees, Kim Nelson and Robert Bodine.

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

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         Plaintiff filed his original complaint on June 1, 2017. Defendants filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). On May 17, 2018, the trial court entered a memorandum and order granting defendants' motions to dismiss. The memorandum and order carefully explained why plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         Exactly thirty days later, plaintiff filed a "First Amended Complaint." The amended complaint contained additional factual allegations and new causes of action. Defendants filed a "Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint." In their "response," defendants set forth the relevant factors a court should consider in deciding whether to grant a motion to amend. See Welch v. Thuan, 882 S.W.2d 792, 793 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1994). Defendants argued that four factors weighed in favor of denying plaintiff leave to amend his original complaint. Defendants concluded by asserting that plaintiff's amended complaint should "be denied and that the Plaintiff be prohibited by the Court, in its discretion, from filing any additional pleadings and/or motions to amend in this case."

         On September 4, 2018, the trial court entered an order clarifying that "Mr. Justice filed a First Amended Complaint not a motion to be allowed to file an amended complaint." (Emphasis in original.) The court was reminding defendants that "[a] party may amend the party's pleadings once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served[.]" See Tenn. R. Civ. P. 15.01; see also Adams v. Carter Cty. Memorial Hosp., 548 S.W.2d 307, 308-09 (Tenn. 1977) (holding that the plaintiff could file an amended complaint as a matter of course after the trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and before that order of dismissal became a final judgment). Despite finding that "[t]here was never a motion to dismiss the amended complaint[, ]" the trial court ruled that "[t]he response to the amended complaint reads like a motion to dismiss and the Court will consider it a motion to dismiss." The court also requested additional briefing on the issue.

         As requested, both parties submitted briefs. Defendants simply doubled down on their argument that plaintiff "clearly . . . would have to file a Motion to Amend his Complaint that has been dismissed." Their brief failed to address plaintiff's additional factual allegations and new tort claims in any way. Plaintiff's brief argued that defendants waived the opportunity to seek dismissal of the amended complaint because they failed to follow the court's instruction to file a brief in support of a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss.

         On September 28, 2018, the court entered another memorandum and order. After reciting the relevant procedural history, the court stated the following:

In this 16-page First Amended Complaint[, ] Mr. Justice has done his imaginative best to put life back into his 2017 complaint based on this 2012 incident. He has reworded some of his causes of action, injected further detail, and has even gone so far as to add a RICO claim. All this based on what must be described as non-assaultive and all too common incidents between two (2) people engaged in a bitter custody dispute.
The Court has considered this latest complaint and all its asserted claims and reaches the same conclusion it did in its May 17, 2018 Memorandum and Order. On these alleged facts there are no viable causes of action in this case.
For the reasons stated above, the motion to dismiss is granted. This case is dismissed and any outstanding court ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.