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Samples v. Payne

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

July 29, 2019

PETER O. SAMPLES, Plaintiff,
v.
PATTI PAYNE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Hanly A. Ingram, United States Magistrate Judge

         The Court considers Defendant Patti Payne's motion for summary judgment. D.E. 32. Plaintiff Peter Samples has responded in opposition. D.E. 34. No. timely reply brief was filed.

         On April 9, 2018, Plaintiff brought this pro se lawsuit in federal court against four defendants. D.E. 1. The lawsuit concerns the Saint Camillus Academy Alumni Association (“SCAAA”), an organization that was formed in 1914 and incorporated in Kentucky in 2000 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. See D.E. 34 at 5. Plaintiff was elected president in 1998 and retained that position until the election of October 21, 2017. D.E. 32-2 at 11. Bob Watkins, one of the original named defendants, was elected during the meeting on October 21, 2017, replacing Plaintiff as president. Id. . at 21.

         Plaintiff alleged in the original complaint that the 2017 election was part of “a conspiracy to commit theft and misappropriation of corporate investments.” D.E. 1 at 2. In other words, Plaintiff alleges defendants plotted to take over the SCAAA by electing Watkins president so they could gain control of the SCAAA's assets. However, Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he had no evidence any SCAAA funds were misappropriated or even removed from their accounts. D.E. 32-2 at 27.

         According to the Complaint, the election violated “the procedures set forth in the SCAAA's Articles of Incorporation, By-laws as Revised July 14, 2014, and Roberts Rules of Order.” D.E. 1 at 2. The original named defendants included three Kentucky residents (including Watkins) and Patti Payne of St. Petersburg, Florida. Id. at 1. The Complaint requested injunctive relief (id. at 3-4), which was denied (D.E. 7). The Civil Cover Sheet requests $300, 000 in damages. D.E. 1-2. The Complaint indicated the SCAAA possessed approximately $146, 000 in financial investments. D.E. 1 at 2. And the Complaint requested unspecified punitive damages. Id. at 4. The Complaint did not clearly articulate the legal theory upon which the lawsuit was based.

         On April 10, District Judge Reeves considered whether Plaintiffs Complaint properly invoked federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. D.E. 7. Judge Reeves found that the amount-in-controversy requirement was satisfied. Id. at 1. But the case lacked “complete diversity” because three of the four defendants were Kentucky residents. Id. at 1-2.

         In response, on April 27, Plaintiff moved to amend the Complaint to include only Florida citizen Patti Payne as defendant. D.E. 11. Plaintiff alleged Payne was the initiator and orchestrator of “the take-over” of the SCAAA. Id. at 1. Plaintiff requested $150, 000 in punitive damages

for the public embarrassment, humiliation, and mental anguish caused by her actions in the interference of and creating a breach of the contractual relationship between him and the SCAAA, for usurping his authority as stipulated within the SCAAA's Articles of Incorporation, By-laws as Revised July 19, 2014, and Robert Rules of Order, and prohibiting him from exercising the commitment he made to the SCAAA in his Oath of Office.

Id. at 4; D.E. 14 at 6. The motion to amend was granted (D.E. 12) and Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which became the operative complaint in this case. D.E. 14. The Amended Complaint alleges that Payne “has continuously interfered with [Plaintiff's] contractual obligations” and has conspired with others to do so. Id. at 5. Plaintiff also testified at his deposition that this lawsuit includes a single legal claim, i.e., intentional interference with contractual relations. D.E. 32-2 at 28.

         After Payne answered the Complaint, Judge Reeves ordered a Rule 26(f) planning meeting and report. D.E. 17. The parties consented to referral to a Magistrate Judge, and on June 15, 2018, the case was assigned to the undersigned for all purposes, including trial and judgment. D.E. 18, 19.

         On May 30, 2019, Defendant Payne filed the motion for summary judgment now under consideration. D.E. 32. Plaintiff responded in opposition. D.E. 34. No. timely reply was filed. Payne argues that, although Plaintiff raises a claim of intentional interference with contractual relations, “he cannot prove a contract ever existed” between himself and the SCAAA. D.E. 32-1 at 1.

         Legal Standards for Summary Judgment

         The Court recognizes that Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, without the assistance of an attorney. The Court construes pro se filings more leniently than filings prepared by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 381-83 (2003).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper if “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court must assume the truth of the non-moving party's evidence, and draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Plaintiff). Mullins v. Cyranek, 805 F.3d 760, 765 (6th Cir. 2015); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). If there is sufficient evidence for a trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, a genuine dispute of material fact exists and summary judgment may not issue. Mullins, 805 F.3d at 765. “The ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient ...


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