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Linden Place, LLC v. Stanley Bank

September 21, 2007

LINDEN PLACE, LLC, APPELLANT,
v.
STANLEY BANK, APPELLEE.



Appeal from Johnson District Court; KEVIN P. MORIARTY, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In reviewing a ruling on a summary judgment motion, the appellate court stands in the shoes of the district court and considers the motion de novo. In doing so, the appellate court reviews the evidence in the light most favoring the party against whom summary judgment was sought. Further, in determining whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact the appellate court considers not only the evidence but the reasonable inference that may be drawn from the evidence.

2. While the clear and convincing evidence standard ultimately may apply at trial, it does not apply at the summary judgment stage. To overcome summary judgment the existence of a genuine issue of material fact need not be established by clear and convincing evidence.

3. A fiduciary relationship exists when special confidence is placed in one who, in equity and good conscience, is bound to act in good faith and with due regard to the interest of the one placing the confidence. Since the existence of a fiduciary relationship depends on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, there is no exact definition of a fiduciary relationship which may be applied universally.

4. Generally, there are two types of fiduciary relationships: (1) those specifically created by contract or by formal legal proceedings and (2) those implied in law due to the facts surrounding the involved transaction and the relationship of the parties to each other and to the transaction.

5. One may not abandon all caution and responsibility for one's own protection and unilaterally impose a fiduciary relationship on another without a conscious assumption of such duties by the one sought to be held liable as a fiduciary.

6. In order to withstand summary judgment on a claim of tortious interference with a contractual right, plaintiff must point to evidence in the record to support (1) the existence of a contract between plaintiff and a third party, (2) defendant's knowledge of it, (3) defendant's intentional procurement of its breach, (4) the absence of justification, and (5) resulting damages.

7. To withstand summary judgment on a claim of tortious interference with a contractual right, plaintiff must demonstrate evidence of an intentional inducement to breach which was malicious, i.e., that the defendant acted in a state of mind characterized by an intent to do a harmful act without reasonable justification or excuse.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McANANY, J.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Before MARQUARDT, P.J., McANANY, J., and BRAZIL, S.J.

This appeal arises from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Stanley Bank (or Bank), the lender of funds for a residential construction project, and against Linden Place, L.L.C., the owner of the property upon which the residences were constructed. In the motion the Bank challenged the existence of any fiduciary duty owed to Linden Place under facts it claimed to be uncontroverted. It did not challenge the issue of causation. However, it did challenge Linden Place's tortious interference claim.

The peculiar facts of this case present the possibility of a fiduciary relationship during only the briefest of times. Since no issue of causation is raised, we do not address whether there is any evidence of Linden Place sustaining damages during that brief time. Nevertheless, we conclude that because there remains a genuine issue of the material fact out of which Linden Place predicates the existence of a fiduciary relationship, the issue was not appropriate for summary judgment.

With respect to Linden Place's claim of tortious interference, we conclude that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Stanley Bank.

Facts

In our de novo consideration of Stanley Bank's summary judgment motion, we consider the facts and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts in the light most favoring Linden Place, the party against whom summary judgment was sought. White v. J.D. Reece Co., 29 Kan. App. 2d 226, 26 P.3d 701 (2001). Accordingly, we will recount the facts in that light.

Linden Place, L.L.C., is the owner and developer of the Linden Place subdivision, a residential subdivision in southern Overland Park. Scott Harder and Michael Healey are principals in Linden Place. M&I Bank apparently provided financing to Linden Place for development of the subdivision. Steve Morris is the senior vice president of M&I Bank.

Linden Place entered into negotiations with Williams Building & Development Corporation for the purchase of lots in the subdivision. In July 2004, Williams was replaced by Linden Place Villa Homes, L.L.C., through an assignment. Nevertheless, ...


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