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Tatonka Capital Corp. v. Connelly

United States District Court, D. Colorado

July 18, 2018

TATONKA CAPITAL CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL CONNELLY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARCIA S. KRIEGER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to the Plaintiff's (“Tatonka”) Motion for Summary Judgment (# 83), Mr. Connelly's pro se[1] response (# 92), and Tatonka's reply (#95); and Mr. Connelly's Motion for Summary Judgment (# 93), Tatonka's response (# 96), and Mr. Connelly's reply (# 97).[2]

         FACTS AND JURISDICTION

         The Court summarizes the pertinent facts here and elaborates as necessary in its analysis. Mr. Connelly is the Chief Executive Officer of an entity called Mosaica Education, Inc. (“Mosaica”). In 2007, Tatonka entered into an agreement with Mosaica to loan Mosaica up to $10 million via a revolving loan agreement. Pursuant to the agreement, Tatonka made large long-term loans to Mosaica.

         Then, in 2013, Mosaica requested new short-term loans from Tatonka, but Tatonka was reluctant to agree. The parties ultimately agreed that Tatonka would make the additional short-term loans if Mr. Connelly (and other principals of Mosaica) executed personal guarantees. Over a period of several months in 2013, Mr. Connelly executed six Guaranty Agreements, promising to personally guarantee various amounts of Mosaica's indebtedness.

         Although Mosaica paid off the short-term loans as required, by 2014 it had defaulted on its long term indebtedness to Tatonka. Several lawsuits involving Mosaica ensued, and ultimately the company was eventually placed into a receivership and liquidated. Some $4 million of Mosaica's debt remained unpaid following the liquidation of Mosaica.

         Tatonka then turned to the guarantees given by Mr. Connelly. Mr. Connelly disputed that the guarantees applied to the long-term loans as compared to the short-term loans that had been paid off. Tatonka commenced this suit, asserting a single claim against Mr. Connelly for breach of contract. Tatonka moves (# 83) for summary judgment against Mr. Connelly. Mr. Connelly filed a cross motion for summary judgment (# 93), a single-page document that incorporates his response to Tatonka's motion by reference.

         The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §1332.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of review

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure facilitates the entry of a judgment only if no trial is necessary. See White v. York Intern. Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995). Summary adjudication is authorized when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law governs what facts are material and what issues must be determined. It also specifies the elements that must be proved for a given claim or defense, sets the standard of proof and identifies the party with the burden of proof. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. v. Producer's Gas Co., 870 F.2d 563, 565 (10th Cir. 1989). A factual dispute is “genuine” and summary judgment is precluded if the evidence presented in support of and opposition to the motion is so contradictory that, if presented at trial, a judgment could enter for either party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a summary judgment motion, a court views all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, thereby favoring the right to a trial. See Garrett v. Hewlett Packard Co., 305 F.3d 1210, 1213 (10th Cir. 2002).

         If the movant has the burden of proof on a claim or defense, the movant must establish every element of its claim or defense by sufficient, competent evidence. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). Once the moving party has met its burden, to avoid summary judgment the responding party must present sufficient, competent, contradictory evidence to establish a genuine factual dispute. See Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d 887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991); Perry v. Woodward, 199 F.3d 1126, 1131 (10th Cir. 1999). If there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, a trial is required. If there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, no trial is required. The court then applies the law to the undisputed facts and enters judgment.

         If the moving party does not have the burden of proof at trial, it must point to an absence of sufficient evidence to establish the claim or defense that the non-movant is obligated to prove. If the respondent comes forward with sufficient competent evidence to establish a prima facie claim or defense, a trial is required. If the respondent fails to produce sufficient competent evidence to establish its claim or defense, then the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         This case involves cross-motions for summary judgment. "Because the determination of whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material factual issue turns upon who has the burden of proof, the standard of proof and whether adequate evidence has been submitted to support a prima facie case or to establish a genuine dispute as to material fact, cross motions must be evaluated independently." In re Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Securities Litig., 209 F.Supp.2d 1106, 1112 (D. Colo. 2002); see also Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank of Wichita,226 F.3d 1138, 1148 (10th Cir. 2000); Buell Cabinet Co. v. Sudduth, 608 F.2d 431, 433 ...


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