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Jenkins v. Burkey

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 2, 2018

SCOTT JENKINS and RHONDA STEPHANIE ALEXANDROPOULOS, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRUCE BURKEY, TAYLOR LAW FIRM PC, JOICE BASS, JENNIFER HOSTETLER and LEWIS ROCA ROTHGERBER LLP, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Bruce Burkey and Taylor Law Offices, PC (“TLO”; misnamed in the Second Amended Complaint as Taylor Law Firm PC) (Doc. 77). Plaintiff Scott Jenkins has responded to the motion (Doc. 90), and Burkey and TLO have replied to that response (Doc. 91).[1]

         I. Background

         Jenkins originally filed a nearly identical lawsuit on September 29, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, which described the litigation as follows:

This litigation arises from a prior lawsuit plaintiff Jenkins filed against his daughters in Nevada to regain control of a family-owned company in Nevada (the “Nevada Lawsuit”). In that lawsuit, Jenkins' daughters retained defendants Bass and Hostetler of the Nevada law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP as their attorneys. In addition, plaintiff Jenkins' daughters retained defendant Burkey of the Taylor Law Firm, P.C. in Illinois.
* * *
Plaintiffs have now brought a variety of claims against the named attorneys and law firms, which all relate to the defendants' work representing their clients opposite plaintiff Jenkins in the Nevada Lawsuit. These claims include intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with a prospective economic advantage, defamation, negligent supervision, and breach of contract. Plaintiffs have also alleged that defendants committed fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, conspiracy, theft, the unauthorized practice of law, illegal possession of personal credit file information, violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act, blackmail, extortion, coercion, mail fraud, and sending threatening communications by mail.

         Mem. & Order at 1-2, Jenkins v. Burkey, No. 4:15-cv-1494-SNLJ (E.D. Mo. June 21, 2016).

         In an order dated June 22, 2017 (Doc. 53), the Court granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss filed by Burkey and TLO, leaving only three claims in this case:

• Count VII against Burkey for defamation;
• Count VIII against Burkey for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; and
• Count X against TLO based on vicarious liability for Burkey's conduct in the foregoing two claims.

         Burkey and TLO now seek summary judgment on those remaining claims.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind, Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

         The initial summary judgment burden of production is on the moving party to show the Court that there is no reason to have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013). Where the non-moving party carries the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of production in one of two ways. It may present evidence that affirmatively negates an essential element of the non-moving party's case, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A), or it may point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's case without actually submitting any evidence, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1169. Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

         In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of “some alleged factual dispute between the parties, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if “a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. ...


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