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Lane v. Ballot

Supreme Court of Alaska

July 25, 2014

LENNIE LANE III, Appellant,
v.
JOHN BALLOT, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Annie Ballot, Appellee

Page 339

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, John Suddock, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-11-08545 CI.

Lennie Lane III, Pro se, Kenai, Appellant.

Steven D. Smith, Law Offices of Steven D. Smith, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 340

MAASSEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Lennie Lane appeals from the superior court's grant of summary judgment against him in a personal injury case. The superior court applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to find that Lane's criminal conviction for assaulting Annie Ballot established that he was liable to her in tort. Lane challenges the sufficiency of the evidence of his criminal conviction. He also challenges the application of collateral estoppel, arguing that (1) his conviction was not final because it was on appeal at the time the court relied on it, and (2) the verdict against him -- " guilty but mentally ill" -- was not sufficient to establish the elements of the crime of which he was convicted. We affirm the superior court's judgment.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Annie Ballot filed suit against Lennie Lane in superior court.[1] Both she and Lane were represented by counsel. Ballot's complaint alleged that Lane " without provocation attacked the plaintiff, raped her[,] and beat her so severely that she was comatose for an extended period of time and unable to conduct her personal affairs for several months." The complaint further alleged that " [a]s a result of the aforesaid actions the defendant [Lane] was convicted of A[S] 11.41.410(a)(1), [AS] 11.41.210(a)(2)[,] and AS 11.56.610." [2] Finally, the complaint alleged that " [a]s a direct and proximate result of the conduct of the defendant, . . . Ballot suffered pain and suffering and humiliation both past and future for which she is entitled to general damages from the defendant in an amount to be determined at trial." Lane, through his attorney, admitted all these allegations in his answer.

During a status hearing in March 2012, Lane's attorney repeatedly acknowledged that Lane had been convicted of crimes based on the events on which Ballot's civil claims were based; but Lane, participating telephonically, seemed to disagree. The superior court advised that " in an abundance of caution" Ballot should file a motion for summary judgment on liability, and Lane and his attorney could decide how to respond. The superior court then set a damages hearing for the week of May 14.[3]

Ballot filed her summary judgment motion on March 27 but failed to support it with any evidence. Lane apparently filed no opposition, but the superior court nonetheless denied the motion without prejudice, concluding that under Alaska Civil Rule 56, " [a]bsent an affidavit and/or copy of [the] criminal judgment, [the attorney's] unsupported allegation [in the motion] is inadequate for summary judgment."

At the damages hearing on May 15, Ballot's attorney had yet to acquire documentary evidence of Lane's conviction. He argued that the admissions in Lane's answer were sufficient to establish the facts necessary for liability, though he acknowledged Lane's apparent position that the answer had been drafted without his approval. The superior court again relied on Civil Rule 56 for the proposition that a motion for summary judgment must be supported by evidence; the

Page 341

judge suggested that a copy of the judgment of conviction would be sufficient to establish Lane's liability. The judge asked Lane's attorney for the criminal case number, then said that he would send his administrative assistant to retrieve the file, and if it confirmed the fact of conviction he would take judicial notice of it. Lane's attorney then offered to stipulate to his client's conviction for the rape and assault. The superior court accepted the stipulation and on that basis granted summary judgment to Ballot on the issue of liability, a conclusion it later restated in written findings and conclusions. After ...


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