Sudduth purchased a six-lot subdivision containing lot 4A in 1985.
Sudduth sought to develop the subdivision for rental use.
The Neighbors felt that lot 4A was their private park where their
Through administrative proceedings and litigation the neighbors
actively opposed the development for 9 years.
On November 1993, Brian Cassidy discovered for the first time that the
city board of health (board) had granted Sudduth an on-site
sewage disposal permit in December, 1992.
Sent Letter to
Cassidy sent a letter to the board on December 3, 1993, alleging that
the sewage disposal system was in violation of board regulations
and requesting a review of the situation.
The board never responded to this letter.
Great Pond Builders
Sudduth entered into purchase and sale agreement for July 18, 1994.
Great Pond alleged told Sudduth that neighbors were harassing them.
Filed suit against Sudduth in Superior Court.
Requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary
injunction to prevent construction of sewage system.
Declaratory judgment that Sudduth needed various from the board and DEP
before the plans for the system could be approved.
Vittand is an environmental engineer.
Showed numerous environment violations with State and Local
Sudduth did not appear
Superior Court Judge granted Motion for injunctive relief ex parte.
Same Judge vacated preliminary injunction.
1) Abuse of process and 2) intentional infliction of emotional
distress, 3) costs, and 4) requesting sanctions against Cassidy.
Judge (Favor of
Summary Judgment in favor of Sudduth on the neighbors lawsuit.
Opted not to complete, b/c the neighbors claims were outstanding.
No potential buyers were interested b/c of neighbors actions.
Special motion to dismiss counterclaims.
Allowed special motion.
Awarded attorney fees to Neighbors.
Lot 4A was sold to pay accumulated taxes on the land.
Ruling on Special Motion To Dismiss
Denied neighbors motion, because Sudduth met statutory burden and
neighbors claim was devoid of facts and merit.
Allowed motion for summary judgment on ALL of Sudduths counterclaims.
Both Parties appealed.
Granted in favor of the neighbors on all of Sudduth's counterclaims,
namely abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, costs, and rule 11 sanctions.
Civil Procedure Rules
Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that 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."
We review the granting of summary judgment on each of Sudduth's
Abuse of Process
Abuse of Process
elements of the tort of abuse of process are
(2) for an
ulterior or illegitimate purpose;
More specifically, abuse of process has been described as a
form of coercion to obtain a
collateral advantage, not properly involved in the
proceeding itself, such as the surrender of property or the
payment of money.
It is immaterial that the process was
properly issued, or that it was obtained in the course of
proceedings that were brought with probable cause and for a
The subsequent misuse of the process, though properly obtained,
constitutes the misconduct for which the
liability is imposed.
Further, the ulterior motive may be shown by showing a
direct demand for collateral
advantage, or it may be inferred from what is said or
done about the process.
Superior Ct. Judge (Granting Summary Judge to Neighbors on Abuse
The record is insufficient to
warrant a fact-finder in concluding that the original complaint
was brought for an 'ulterior purpose,'"
It was the only element of Sudduth's claim that was challenged
by the neighbors.
We think the affidavits supplied by Sudduth present a genuine issue
of material fact whether the neighbors had an
ulterior purpose in bringing
suit against Sudduth.
Light Most Favorable to Sudduth
A jury could reasonably infer that the neighbors served their complaint
for an ulterior, illegitimate motive, namely to maintain their
access to Sudduth's private property by involving the property
in protracted litigation before the sale could be finalized.
Where state of mind is an essential element
of the cause of action, summary judgment is
Because summary judgment should not
have entered on Sudduth's abuse of process and emotional
distress claims, those claims are
remanded for trial.
We affirm the dismissal of all other claims and motions in this action