Court Dismisses Property Owner’s Suits Against Golfers

Jun 30, 2006

A federal judge has dismissed the claim of a homeowner, who had argued that several golfers violated his civil rights, trespassed and destroyed personal property when they entered his property to retrieve their respective golf balls.
The judge’s ruling centered on the doctrine of res judicata – the fact that the plaintiff had previously litigated the claims against the defendants in state court, which resulted in a verdict for the golfers.
Plaintiff Andrew S. Mavrovich, who is now deceased, owned property adjacent to the Village Greens Golf Course in Jefferson County, Kansas. He had complained for years that golfers were routinely infringing upon his property rights. He eventually filed a claim on June 14, 2004 in Kansas state court. On November 8, 2004, the District Court of Jefferson County dismissed plaintiff’s action with prejudice based on res judicata, and imposed sanctions on the plaintiff because he had been previously warned that he would suffer sanctions and penalties if he raised the same issues in court again. The Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal and the imposition of sanctions on August 26, 2005.
The plaintiff then filed his claim in federal court, a decision that led to the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
“It is patently obvious from the arguments set forth … that plaintiff’s action against all defendants is barred by res judicata,” the federal judge wrote. “Further, the Court finds that allowing plaintiff to amend his complaint would be futile when he previously litigated, in numerous state court cases, these same claims against these same defendants stemming from his dispute with the Village Greens Golf Course.”
The court further elaborated on the doctrine of res judicata, which “is a bar to a second action upon the same claim, demand or cause of action. It is founded upon the principle that the party, or some other with whom he is in privity, has litigated, or had an opportunity to litigate, the same matter in a former action in a court of competent jurisdiction.” Penachio v. Walker, 207 Kan. 54, 483 P.2d 1119, 1121 (Kan. 1971).
Under Kansas law, “an issue is res judicata when four conditions concur: (1) identity in the things sued for, (2) identity of the cause of action, (3) identity of persons and parties to the action, and (4) identity in the quality of the persons for or against whom the claim is made.” Id.
All four identities were present in this case.
Andrew S. Mavrovich v. Merle Vanderpool et al.; D. Kan.; Case No. 05-4151-JAR; 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19275; 4/12/06
Attorneys of Record: (for defendants) Michael C. Hayes, Hayes & Hayes, Oskaloosa, KS. Wendell F. Cowan, Jr., Foulston Siefkin LLP-Overland Park, Overland Park, KS.


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