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Ford Plantation Club, Inc. v. McKay

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

December 3, 2019

THE FORD PLANTATION CLUB, INC. and THE FORD PLANTATION ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiffs and Counter-Defendants,
v.
MICHAEL MCKAY, Individually and as Trustee of the TARA HILL I REVOCABLE TRUST, Defendants and Counter-Claimants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTTUCT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Plaintiffs and Counter-Defendants The Ford Plantation Club, Inc. and The Ford Plantation Association, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 42) and Motion for Summary Judgment on Defendants' Counterclaims (Doc. 43). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motions are GRANTED. Plaintiffs are DIRECTED to provide this Court with an updated calculation of damages, including the per diem interest rate for both the outstanding association dues and outstanding club dues. Defendants counterclaims are DISMISSED.

         BACKGROUND

         This case involves Defendants' purchase of real property in the Ford Plantation, a planned development in Richmond Hill, Georgia. Plaintiff Ford Plantation Association ("Association") is a nonprofit corporation that is responsible for the ownership, operation and maintenance of the common areas of The Ford Plantation development, organized and existing in accordance with the duly-recorded Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for The Ford Plantation (the "Association Declaration"). (Doc. 42 at 3.) The Association Declaration requires owners to pay assessments, expenses, and other charges for all periods of time during ownership. (Id.) Plaintiff Ford Plantation Club ("Club") is a nonprofit corporation responsible for the management and maintenance of the private, equity ownership, social and recreational club of The Ford Plantation development, organized and existing in accordance with the duly-recorded Club Declaration for The Ford Plantation Club, Inc. (the "Club Declaration") and the duly-recorded The Ford Plantation Club By-Laws (the "Club By-Laws"). (Id.) The Club is responsible for the management of various social and leisure amenities offered to individuals that own property in the development and have been accepted for membership in the Club. (Id. at 3-4.) Members of the Club are liable for the payment of membership dues, fees, contributions, operating assessments and other charges incurred. (Id. at 4-5.)

         Defendant Michael McKay as Trustee of the Tara Hill I Revocable Trust (the "McKay Trust") is the owner of property located at the Ford Plantation development. (Id. at 3.) Defendant Michael McKay applied for membership in the Club as the designated member of the McKay Trust and the McKay Trust was accepted as a member. (Doc. 42 at 4-5.) Eventually, Defendants failed to pay both Association and Club expenses as they became due. (Id. at 5.)

         Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant Michael McKay and Beth McKay in the Superior Court of Bryan County seeking recovery for outstanding Association and Club dues and assessments. (Id. at 2; Doc. 1.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C, § 1332, Defendants invoked this Court's diversity jurisdiction and removed the case to this Court. (Doc. 1 at 1.) In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs seek over $14, 000 in unpaid fees, assessments, late fees, and interest owed to the Association and over $153, 000 in unpaid fees, assessments, late fees, and interest owed to the Club. (Doc. 28 at 8.) In their answer to the amended complaint, Defendants asserted multiple counterclaims including a counterclaim for deceit, a counterclaim for breach of contract, a counterclaim for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that "the purported membership obligation is and has been unenforceable," a counterclaim for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that "a Club member has and always has had the right to resign his or her membership in The Club at any time" without having to pay additional expenses, and a counterclaim for breach of contract and bad faith. (Doc. 30 at 5-20.)

         Defendants sought to dismiss some, but not all, of their counterclaims through a notice of dismissal (Doc. 38), however, this Court found that Defendants were unable to use Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i) and 41(c) to dismiss only some of the counterclaims (Doc. 39) . Defendants filed a Consent Motion to File Amended Answer and Counterclaim to remove some of the counterclaims. (Doc. 40.) The Court granted the motion on January 10, 2019 (Doc. 41), however, no amended answer has been filed to date. Therefore, all counterclaims remain pending. Plaintiffs now seek summary judgment with respect to their claims (Doc. 42) and Defendants' counterclaims (Doc. 43). In their motions, Plaintiffs generally state that the Association and Club expenses are due under the terms of the various agreements entered into by Defendants and that Defendants have no legal defenses that would permit them to avoid those agreements. (Doc. 42 at 6-13.) With respect to Defendants' counterclaims, Plaintiffs present a myriad of arguments they believe defeat Defendants' counterclaims. (Doc. 43 at 4-24.) Defendants have not responded to either motion for summary judgment.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment shall be rendered "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c) . The "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (198 6) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee notes). Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmovant "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The substantive law governing the action determines whether an element is essential. DeLong Equip. Co. v. Wash. Mills Abrasive Co., 887 F.2d 1499, 1505 (11th Cir. 1989).

         As the Supreme Court explained:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex, 4 77 U.S. at 323, 10 6 S.Ct. at 2 553. The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to establish, by going beyond the pleadings, that there is a genuine issue as to facts material to the nonmovant's case. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The Court must review the evidence and all reasonable factual inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. However, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id., 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. A mere "scintilla" of evidence, or simply conclusory allegations, will not suffice. See, e.g., Tidwell v. Carter Prods., 135 F.3d 1422, 1425 (11th Cir. 1998). Nevertheless, where a reasonable fact finder may "draw more than one inference from the facts, and that inference creates a genuine issue of material fact, then the Court should refuse to grant summary judgment." Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 933-34 (11th Cir. 1989).

         ANALYSIS

         I. PLAINTIFFS' MOTION ...


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