Bostick v. CMM Properties, Inc.Annotate this Case
In January 1992, Diversified Capital Management, Inc. leased premises designated as a grocery store to James Bostick. In August 1992, Diversified assigned its rights as lessor to Ingram Timber Enterprises, L.P. In October 2000, Bostick, with the approval of Ingram, subleased the property to CMM Properties, Inc. (“CMM”). The sublease was subject to all the terms of the original lease, referred to by the parties as the “master lease.” In June 2005, Ingram filed suit in superior court against CMM and three individual guarantors of the sublease (collectively “the CMM parties”), but not Bostick. Ingram claimed default under the terms of the master lease and sublease, and sought liquidated damages under the master lease. The trial court granted summary judgment to the CMM parties, finding that the purported liquidated damages constituted a void and unenforceable penalty. Ingram never appealed that final judgment. In January 2010, Ingram filed a complaint for rent and breach of contract against Bostick, seeking the same liquidated damages sought in the first suit. Then in November 2010, Bostick filed a third-party complaint against the CMM parties, claiming that if he was liable to Ingram, then the CMM parties were liable to him. The CMM parties moved for summary judgment, asserting, among other things, res judicata, based on the judgment in the first lawsuit. Before the trial court ruled on the summary judgment motion, Ingram and Bostick entered into a consent judgment, which provided that Ingram was entitled to judgment in excess of $1 million, but that Ingram would not attempt to collect such judgment. Instead, the consent judgment would be satisfied by Bostick pursuing the case against the CMM parties. The trial court granted the CMM parties' motion for summary judgment, finding that res judicata precluded the suit; that the remedy provisions of the master lease were void and unenforceable penalties; and that under the terms of the consent judgment between Ingram and Bostick there was no real threat of liability for Bostick, and thus, no secondary liability to be recovered by the third-party action. Bostick appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that he was not a party to the first lawsuit, therefore, it could not preclude him in the second. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and as to the issue of res judicata, finding that Bostick and the CMM parties were privies, and therefore, that Bostick was bound by the judgment in the first lawsuit. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and concluded that the appellate court's analysis and conclusion were "fatally flawed" because they were premised "on a basic misconception of the doctrine of res judicata:" as a privy of the CMM parties, the doctrine could not be applied against Bostick because of the lack of an adversarial relationship in regard to the prior litigation. "Even if Bostick was not deemed to be such a privy of the CMM parties, res judicata is not properly asserted against him by the CMM parties so as to preclude Bostick's third-party complaint because Bostick was not involved in the initial suit brought by Ingram." The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings.