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C.M. v. McKee

Court of Appeals of Kansas

June 23, 2017

C.M., for and on behalf of A.M., a Minor Child, Appellee,
v.
Michael McKee, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Courts generally do not decide a lawsuit when its ruling would no longer have any practical significance, which means the lawsuit is moot. But there are exceptions to this general rule, including (1) when the issue is of public importance and capable of repetition and (2) when dismissal of the appeal could adversely affect vital rights of one of the parties. A court may decide a moot case if it fits one of the exceptions.

         2. Under the definition of "stalking" in the Kansas Protection from Stalking Act, a plaintiff must have reasonable fear for his or her safety and the defendant's actions must be ones that would cause a reasonable person to suffer from substantial emotional distress before a district court may find the defendant stalked the plaintiff. In deciding whether stalking has taken place when the plaintiff is a child, the court must view the circumstances from the viewpoint of a reasonable child of the plaintiff's age.

         Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; Benjamin L. Burgess, judge.

          Nancy Ogle, of Ogle Law Office, L.L.C., of Wichita, and Kristen B. Patty, of Wichita, for appellant.

          Dana C. Stuart, of Wichita, for appellee.

          Before Leben, P.J., Pierron and Bruns, JJ.

          Leben, J.

         Michael McKee appeals the protection-from-stalking order entered against him and in favor of his neighbor, A.M., a young girl who was 11 years old at the time the order was entered. A protection-from-stalking order is available in Kansas when someone has engaged in a course of conduct that placed the other person in reasonable fear for that person's safety and that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.

         McKee contends on appeal that a reasonable 11-year-old child wouldn't have feared for her safety or suffered substantial emotion distress due to his actions. But when we look at this from the vantage point of a reasonable 11-year-old child, sufficient evidence supports the district court's conclusion that this child was reasonably in fear and suffered substantial emotional distress-caused when McKee jumped out from behind bushes as the girl was walking home from school and when he took his hands off the steering wheel of his truck and swerved in the direction of the car the girl was riding in.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The parties to this case have been neighbors for about 10 years. Their relationship became strained when McKee began to complain to A.M.'s father (Father) and the City of Wichita about the condition of his neighbor's yard.

          A.M.'s mother (Mother) and Father both filed protection-from-stalking suits against McKee, and Mother also filed suit on A.M.'s behalf. The district court ruled in McKee's favor on the suits brought by Mother and Father, so our discussion will center on the allegations related to A.M., who testified at the trial held in district court.

         A.M. described three incidents. In the first, she said McKee jumped out of the bushes as she was walking home with a friend in the alley behind McKee's house. A.M. said she was scared and ran to her Mother. In the second, she said she was kicking an old plastic bottle with friends in her backyard when the bottle sailed over the fence into McKee's yard. She said he frightened her by yelling at her and her friends from his yard. In the third, she said that she and a friend were in a car being driven by Father when McKee drove toward them in ...


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