Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Morrow v. Pake

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 20, 2018

Bridgette Morrow
v.
S. Lee Pake

          Appeal from Tuscaloosa Circuit Court (CV-17-110)

          THOMAS, JUDGE.

         Bridgette Morrow appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court ("the circuit court") in favor of S. Lee Pake. We reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand this cause for further proceedings.

         Background

         In 2014, Morrow began renting a house from Pake, pursuant to the terms of a written residential rental agreement. After the term of the rental agreement expired, Morrow began renting the property on a month-to-month basis. In August 2016, Pake, acting pro se, initiated an unlawful-detainer action ("the unlawful-detainer action") against Morrow in the Tuscaloosa District Court ("the district court") by filing a form complaint, specifically, Form C-59 that is provided by the Unified Judicial System.

         Form C-59 provides, in relevant part:

"1. Plaintiff(s) demands the right to possession from the defendant(s) of the following described residential, commercial or other real property located at:
"2. Defendant(s) no longer has the right to possession because:
"3. Defendant(s) right of possession has been lawfully terminated by written notice.
"4. Plaintiff(s) also claims the sum of $ plus court costs from the Defendant(s) consisting of: unpaid rent and late charges, plus attorney's fees (if applicable) and other charges.
"5. Plaintiff(s) also claims future rent and late charges, plus attorney's fees (if applicable) and other charges accruing through the date Plaintiff(s) obtains possession of the above described property."

         In his complaint, Pake entered the address of the real property at issue in the blank space accompanying allegation "1" and the phrase "failure to pay rent" in the blank space accompanying allegation "2." Pake did not enter an amount of unpaid rent in the blank space accompanying allegation "4."

         Morrow responded to Pake's complaint by filing a form answer in which she, by selecting specific pre-filled options, denied that Morrow was entitled to possession of the property and denied that she owed him any money. Morrow's answer did not include any counterclaims. The district court thereafter scheduled an "eviction hearing." Before the hearing, however, Pake sent a letter to the district court in which he asked the district court to dismiss his action, explaining: "The tenant has moved." In September 2016, the district court entered a judgment that provided, in its entirety: "Motion to dismiss filed by [Pake] is hereby granted with prejudice."

         Sometime later, Morrow initiated an action against Pake in the district court seeking damages totaling $8, 167. See § 12-12-30, Ala. Code 1975 (providing, in relevant part, that district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over "all civil actions in which the matter in controversy does not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10, 000), exclusive of interests and costs"). In her complaint, Morrow asserted several claims based on Pake's alleged violation of various protections afforded her under the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, § 35-9A-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the Act"). See § 35-9A-105, Ala. Code 1975 (providing, in relevant part: "(a) The remedies provided by this chapter [i.e., the Act] shall be so administered that an aggrieved party may recover appropriate damages" and "(b) Any right or obligation declared by this chapter is enforceable by action unless the provision declaring it specifies a different and limited effect.").

         In February 2017, Pake filed, with the assistance of counsel, a motion to dismiss Morrow's complaint, in which he argued that the claims set out therein were compulsory counterclaims under Rule 13(a), Ala. R. Civ. P., that Morrow had failed to assert in the unlawful-detainer action and that the doctrine of res judicata barred Morrow from relitigating those claims in a subsequent action. On March 16, 2017, the district court entered a judgment granting Pake's motion to dismiss. The judgment provided, in relevant part:

"[Morrow]'s claims in this case are based upon the rights and obligations of the parties pursuant to the lease agreement, which the Court construes as the 'same occurrence or transaction' which was the subject matter of [the unlawful-detainer action]. Accordingly, [Morrow]'s claims are compulsory counterclaims and should have been raised as such in [the unlawful-detainer action]."

         The record indicates that Morrow filed a timely notice of appeal in the district court on March 29, 2017, seeking further review in the circuit court. See § 12-12-70(a), Ala. Code 1975 (providing, in relevant part, that "[a]ny party may appeal from a final judgment of the district court in a civil case by filing notice of appeal in the district court, within 14 days from the date of the judgment");[1] see also Rule M of the Alabama Small Claims Rules (providing, in relevant part, that "[a] judgment may be appealed to the circuit court by the filing of a notice of appeal in the office of the clerk of the small claims court within fourteen days from the date of the judgment").

         In May 2017, Pake filed an answer in the circuit court, generally denying the allegations set out in Morrow's complaint and again asserting, in relevant part, that her claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. In his answer, Pake also asserted a counterclaim for sanctions under the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act, § 12-19-270 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the ALAA"). That same day, Pake also filed a summary-judgment motion, to which he attached copies of the parties' residential rental agreement and filings and orders from the unlawful-detainer action.

         In his summary-judgment motion, Pake again argued that Morrow's claims were compulsory counterclaims and that they were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and, in seeking a summary judgment against Morrow regarding her claims, he also specifically asked that the circuit court reserve jurisdiction to determine his counterclaim for sanctions under the ALAA. Morrow thereafter moved to strike Pake's answer and to dismiss his counterclaim for sanctions under ALAA and filed a brief opposing Pake's summary-judgment motion, to which she attached various filings and orders from the unlawul-detainer action, including Pake's letter asking the district court to dismiss the unlawful-detainer action because Morrow had vacated the premises. Pake responded to both Morrow's motion and her brief.

         On June 2, 2017, Morrow filed an "amended complaint" in the circuit court, which was, as is demonstrated by the foregoing summary of the proceedings until that point, actually the first complaint that she filed in the circuit court after appealing the district court's judgment. In addition to alleged violations of the Act, Morrow's amended complaint included a count asserting "breach of contract & unjust enrichment" and a count citing Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., that she titled "independent action to vacate the district court's order dismissing [the unlawful-detainer] action ... with prejudice." Pake answered Morrow's amended complaint, generally denying her allegations, reasserting his affirmative defenses, "renew[ing]" his counterclaim for sanctions, and "renew[ing]" his summary-judgment motion to include Morrow's "breach of contract & unjust enrichment" count. On June 12, 2017, Pake filed a motion to dismiss Morrow's claim for an "independent ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.