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Crooked Creek Properties, Inc. v. Ensley

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 2, 2017

CROOKED CREEK PROPERTIES, INC., a Nevada corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD ENSLEY and ANITA LILES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          W. KEITH WATKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Déjà vu! It is Groundhog Day, and, like the Punxsutawney weatherman stuck in a circuitous time-loop, [1] this court finds itself reviewing (and re-living) the same case, yet again. But unlike Bill Murray's movie dilemma, it's not funny. For the fourth consecutive time, in what can only be described as a case of sheer delirium, Plaintiff, Crooked Creek Properties, Inc. (“Crooked Creek”), files this action seeking to reclaim a Section 8 housing apartment complex, known as Danya Park Apartments, in Autauga County, Alabama. (Doc. # 1.) However, because Plaintiff's Complaint is no more availing than it was the three previous times before this court-indeed, it is unavailing-Defendants Richard Ensley and Anita Liles (collectively, the “Defendants”) bring two motions: a motion to dismiss (Doc. # 6), predicated on res judicata; and a motion for sanctions (Doc. # 7), based upon Crooked Creek's history of litigious, meritless, and vexatious filings over the same (lost) cause. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are due to be granted.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         Jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must take the facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Resnick v. AvMed, Inc., 693 F.3d 1317, 1321-22 (11th Cir. 2012). To survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 570 (2007)). “[F]acial plausibility” exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint; it is not a vehicle to litigate questions of fact. See Harper v. Lawrence Cty., Ala., 592 F.3d 1227, 1232 (11th Cir. 2010). However, exhibits attached to the complaint are also properly considered in the 12(b)(6) inquiry. Weeks v. Wyeth, Inc., 120 F.Supp.3d 1278, 1283 (M.D. Ala. 2015) (citing Thaeter v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 449 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 2006)).

         III. FACTS

         For fear of rote memorization, this court will not repeat Crooked Creek's factual allegations or its resulting procedural history. This court has summarized this history in two previous lawsuits. See, e.g., Crooked Creek Props., Inc. v. Hutchinson, No. 2:09-CV-1104-WKW, 2010 WL 3629818 (M.D. Ala. Sept. 10, 2010) (“Crooked Creek II”), aff'd, No. 10-14477, 438 F.App'x 948 (11th Cir. 2011); Crooked Creek Props., Inc. v. Ensley, No. 2:08-CV-1002-WKW, 2009 WL 3644835 (M.D. Ala. Oct. 28, 2009) (“Crooked Creek I”), aff'd, No. 09-15988, 380 F.App'x 914 (11th Cir. 2010). Other courts have Dated this legwork as well. See, e.g., Walden v. ES Capital, LLC, 89 So.3d 90 (Ala. 2011); Walden v. Hutchinson, 987 So.2d 1109 (Ala. 2007); Ex parte Walden, 785 So.2d 335 (Ala. 2000).

         Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, besides substituting new names for its claims-which are in fact the same claims predicated upon the same factual and procedural narrative as the previous lawsuits-there is absolutely nothing new about this Complaint. Because the court has extensive knowledge of the procedural and factual underpinnings of this litigation, any reference to the facts of this case will be drawn from those previous cases.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         In its Complaint, Crooked Creek asserts nine claims against Defendants, including: a claim for trespass to real estate (Claim I); a claim for conversion of negotiable instruments (Claim II); a claim for unjust enrichment (Claim III); a claim that Defendants wrongfully and unlawfully used and occupied Crooked Creek's real property (Claim IV); a claim to recover possession of real property (Claim V); a claim in equity to remove a cloud on the title of its property (Claim VI); a claim for ejectment (Claim VII); a claim for partition by sale or by division (Claim VIII); and a claim for an accounting (Claim IX).[2] (Doc. # 1.)

         Defendants assert that these claims are due to be dismissed for failure to state a claim because the doctrine of res judicata precludes Crooked Creek from re-litigating these matters. (Doc. # 2.) Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's “claims are barred by res judicata several times over based on the multiple cases finding against the Plaintiff and its alleged predecessors on claims deriving from an alleged ownership interest.” (Doc. # 6 at 2.) Defendants are correct. For reasons of which, by now, Crooked Creek ought to be fully aware, see generally Crooked Creek II, 2010 WL 3629818; Crooked Creek I, 2009 WL 3644835, the court agrees . . . again.

         A. Res Judicata

         Small children usually learn fairly early on that if one parent says “no” to a request, it is best not to go behind his or her back and ask the other parent for the same thing. What the first says, goes. Res judicata is based on the same principle.[3]“The elements of res judicata, or claim preclusion, are (1) a prior judgment on the merits, (2) rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) with substantial identity of the parties, and (4) with the same cause of action presented in both suits.” Dairyland Ins. Co. v. Jackson, 566 So.2d 723, 725 (Ala. 1990). “If these essential elements are met, any issue ...


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