COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LINCOLN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/16/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: APPELLEE AWARDED COMPENSATORY AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES.
FOR APPELLANTS: EDUARDO ALBERTO FLECHAS, RONALD EARL STUTZMAN JR.
FOR APPELLEE: JIM WAIDE, WAYNE DOWDY, RON L. WOODRUFF.
BEFORE BARNES, P. J., MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON AND MAXWELL, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS-OTHER THAN PERSONAL INJURY & PROPERTY DAMAGE
¶1. Teresa Beasley rented space to work as a manicurist at a salon owned by Robert and Beverly Lang. Beasley sued the Langs, alleging that they converted her property and that Robert Lang (" Lang" ) had sexually assaulted her. Lang largely refused to participate in the litigation, claiming he was never served with process. He was sanctioned repeatedly for this strategy and ultimately had a default judgment entered against him, though Beverly Lang did put on a defense. Beasley was awarded a total of $138,000 in compensatory damages and $245,000 in punitive damages. The Langs appeal, and we affirm.
¶2. In 2006, Beasley began operating inside the Langs' salon, the Suntan Depot. Around this time she moved from a house to a smaller apartment, and the Langs allowed Beasley to store some personal items in another building they owned.
¶3. According to Beasley, Robert Lang began showing an interest in her that made her uncomfortable. He asked her personal questions, tried to give her money, and, at one point, bought her a bikini. Sometime later, Beasley testified, the Langs had her take a key from an employee of their salon who had been fired for claiming that Lang had been peeping on people in the salon. Beasley took the key and offered to return it to Beverly Lang, but she declined. Robert Lang then called Beasley and told her he was going to come to her apartment to get the key.
¶4. Beasley let Lang into her apartment. He followed her into her bedroom, and, when she turned her back to him, Lang pulled Beasley's skirt over her head. He then grabbed her " buns" and tried to push her onto the bed. Beasley resisted, got Lang out of the bedroom, then locked herself inside. Lang became apologetic and left.
¶5. Because of this incident, Beasley could not continue working at the Langs' salon. She testified that she was only able to get a few of her business supplies from the salon and that the Langs refused to let her get her household items from storage.
¶6. The Langs contended that Beasley's daughter came in shortly after Beasley quit and picked up most of Beasley's business items. Beverly Lang testified that Beasley's only remaining business items were concrete plant stands, which Beasley had refused to come get. Beverly also testified that Beasley was offered several opportunities to get her personal items. The Langs' theory of the case ...