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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Feb 23, 2015

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

W. I. Howell Acuff, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lisa Denise Church.

Attorneys 2:

Kelly A. Tollett and Brett A. York, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Shannon Wayne Brown.

Judge(s): SWINEY

This appeal arises from a claim of fraud in a post-divorce context. Lisa Denise Church (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint for fraud in the Circuit Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”) against her ex-husband, Shannon Wayne Brown (“Defendant”), alleging that he had misled her during their divorce regarding the valuation of his business interest. This suit followed an earlier, unsuccessful action on the issue of fraud filed by Plaintiff under TRCP 60 in the divorce action which had yielded a final judgment after appeal. The Trial Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding, inter alia, that Plaintiff’s fraud claim was barred by res judicata. Plaintiff appealed to this Court. We hold that Plaintiff’s current lawsuit for fraud is a distinct cause of action, namely, common law fraud, and is not barred by res judicata. However, as the issue of fraud already had been decided in the earlier post-divorce Rule 60 proceedings, the doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents Plaintiff from re-litigating the issue of fraud. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court as modified.