April 30, 2009

Plaintiff collaterally estopped because he was previously denied standing in a forfeiture action


Plaintiff appeals summary judgment granted on claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and entitlement to quantum meruit relief. The trial court dismissed the complaint based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel finding Plaintiff’s claims or rights to the same property were finally adjudicated in federal court. We affirm.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

”In this case, the district court found that Mr. Nason had the necessary standing under Article III but did not have the requisite statutory standing to challenge the forfeiture because he failed comply with Rule C(6) after sufficient constructive notice of the action was given. Mr. Nason’s inability to proceed as a party to the forfeiture action was a problem of his own making. Several attempts were made to personally serve Mr. Nason with notice in addition to the published notices. Despite Mr. Nason’s belief that the breach of contract claims do not arise from or relate to the forfeiture action, the time to challenge the validity of Appellees’ liens and claimed interest in the property was during the civil forfeiture action. Mr. Nason cannot now assert his position on a claim that was settled between the Appellees and the government and approved in a final order of the district court by filing a second suit, regardless of whether the first action was in rem or in personam. Examination of the previous action shows that Mr. Nason had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues he now seeks to raise but failed to timely act to use that opportunity when he failed to file an answer or statement of interest. Balancing the concerns of judicial efficiency and fairness to the parties, we find that Mr. Nason is subject to preclusion by collateral estoppel since he could have become a party to the prior litigation.” Id.

April 29, 2009

Statute of repose bars construction claims brought too late; disclosure rule does not apply when claimant should have discovered the defect

KAYE LOCKWOOD v. RONALD G. HUGHES, ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. April 29, 2009).

Buyer of home filed complaint against Sellers for, among other things, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The trial court granted summary judgment to Sellers on the TCPA claim on the ground that it was barred by the statute of repose. Buyer filed a Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment, raising a new argument, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Buyer challenges: (1) the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, asserting that material facts were in dispute regarding Buyer’s allegation that Sellers fraudulently concealed defects in the home and that the fraudulent concealment tolled the statute of repose and (2) the trial court’s failure to consider the new argument raised in Buyer’s Motion to Alter or Amend. Finding the trial court’s actions to be proper in all respects, we affirm the decision.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

”The trial court found that the home was substantially completed on August 1, 1997, and, consequently, the negligent construction and substandard workmanship claim was barred by the statute of limitations since it was brought more than 5 years after the date of substantial completion.” Id.

“To toll the application of the statute of repose based on an allegation of fraudulent concealment, a plaintiff is required to prove the following: (1) that the defendant took affirmative action to conceal the cause of action or remained silent and failed to disclose material facts despite a duty to do so; (2) the plaintiff could not have discovered the cause of action despite exercising reasonable care and diligence; (3) knowledge on the part of the defendant of the facts giving rise to the cause of action; and (4) concealment of material information from the plaintiff... “The tolling doctrine of fraudulent concealment does not apply to cases where the court finds a plaintiff was aware or should have been aware of facts sufficient to put the plaintiff on notice that a specific injury has been sustained as a result of another’s negligent or wrongful conduct.” Id.

“Ms. Lockwood did not have the home inspected prior to closing; that she was aware of a water leak in the home’s basement in 1999; and that she contacted the Hughes when the water leak first appeared but did not inform them during the next three years of the continuing problem. These materials were sufficient to negate an essential element of Ms. Lockwood’s fraudulent concealment claim, viz., that she could not have discovered the cause of action despite exercising reasonable care and diligence.” Id.

April 01, 2009

City of Lebanon acting in administrative capacity when it denied PUD; determined to be acting arbitrary and capricious


Developer sought approval for a planned unit development. The city planning commission approved the development, but the city council did not approve it due to water runoff issues. Developer appealed. The trial court reversed the city council’s denial of the application, finding that the action was properly brought as a common law certiorari action and that the record contained no material evidence to support the city’s decision. The city appealed. We affirm.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website: http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2009/costenterprises_040109.pdf

”The City further maintains that no section of the City’s PUD ordinance states that the council must grant an application for a PUD so long as a list of conditions is met. In McCallen, however, the court stated that where a “zoning ordinance provides relief from zoning requirements designed for more conventional development only when a planned development meets the standards of the pre-existing ordinance,” the criteria “are sufficient to require administrative adherence.” Id.

“It is our opinion that the Lebanon City Council was acting in an administrative capacity when it denied Cost’s application for a PUD. Consequently, the challenge to that action by writ of certiorari is proper. Under the writ of certiorari, review of the action of the Lebanon City Council is limited to whether it exceeded its jurisdiction or acted illegally, arbitrarily or fraudulently.” Id.

“The trial court noted that the Regan Smith study “states that the Chestnut Ridge PUD will reduce the drainage rate of water into the surrounding area. Specifically, the report states that ponds included in the Chestnut Ridge PUD design ‘will reduce runoff to the main channel from the south to rates that are less than pre-development flows.’” The City argues that the trial court ignored the portions of the Regan Smith report that called for additional examination into the sink hole, channels, culverts, and 100-year storm event. In our opinion, the trial court did not mention this because it was not relevant. If the flow is “less than pre-development flows,” the effect of the PUD can be nothing but beneficial to the downstream landowners. It appears that the report called for these additional examinations because of flooding events that have already taken place downstream.” Id.

“After a thorough examination of the record, we are convinced that the trial court was correct in its determination that there was no material evidence to support the Lebanon City Council’s decision.” Id.