The trial court erred in granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings because issues of fact remained unresolved. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Korstad-Tebben, Inc. (Korstad) initiated this action seeking recovery of $7427.50 from Pope Architects, Inc. (Pope). Korstad's complaint contains only two allegations:
Pope filed an answer and a third party complaint against three third party defendants: Harley Miller; Harley Miller Construction, Inc.; and, Gregory F. Butler. Pope alleged that Korstad's services were "performed for and furnished to Third Party Defendants...." Pope made the following response to Korstad's allegations:
At the conclusion of its Answer and Third Party Complaint, Pope requested the following relief:
After all the third party defendants had answered, Korstad filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings alleging that there were no issues of fact and that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Korstad's basis for the motion was its allegation that Pope, in its answer, admitted that it owed Korstad the amount claimed in the complaint. Immediately preceding the hearing on the motion for judgment on the pleadings, Pope provided the court with an affidavit from James R. Pope which clarified the factual situation underlying the case. The trial court concluded that the pleadings were closed and decided not to consider the affidavit for purposes of ruling on the motion for judgment on the pleadings. The trial court granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings and subsequently denied a motion for reconsideration filed by Pope. This appeal followed.
The resolution of this case revolves around the question of whether there were issues of fact remaining when the trial court granted judgment on the pleadings. After carefully reviewing the pleadings of the case and the nature of the claims alleged, we conclude that there were unresolved issues of fact.
SDCL 15-6-8(b) provides that:
That is exactly what Pope did. Pope's position is clear from its answer: Korstad is entitled to be paid, but only by the third party defendants or from the proceeds of the mechanic's lien claim initiated against the third party defendants. Additionally, Pope specifically requested the court to limit Korstad's recovery to the proceeds of the mechanic's lien foreclosure, to determine the respective interests of the parties to the proceeds of the mechanic's lien foreclosure, and to distribute such proceeds accordingly.
The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings under SDCL 15-6-12(c) which provides, in part, "After the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Judgment on the pleadings provides an expeditious remedy to test the legal sufficiency, substance, and form of the pleadings. Hauck v. Bull, 79 S.D. 242, 110 N.W.2d 506 (1961). However, it is only an appropriate remedy to resolve issues of law when there are no remaining issues of fact. Id.
The factual pleadings of both parties are sparse. For instance, Korstad makes absolutely no factual averments to
In its answer, Pope admitted that Korstad was owed money but alleged that the money was owed by the third party defendants. Pope did not specifically allege the existence of privity between Korstad and the third party defendants, just as Korstad had not specifically alleged the existence of a contract. Just as the allegation of a contract was implied in the complaint, the allegation of privity was implied in the answer and third party complaint. See Norwest Bank Black Hills v. Credit Union, 433 N.W.2d 560 (S.D.1988) (not necessary to plead "duty" in a negligence case where the existence of a duty may be logically inferred from the claim). Given this concept of notice pleading, it cannot be said that Korstad did not have notice of the nature of Pope's claims and defenses.
It follows that genuine issues of fact remained to be resolved, including: what type of contract, if any, existed between Korstad and Pope; if a contract existed what were its terms concerning whose obligation it was to pay Korstad; and, was there privity between Korstad and the third partydefendants.
Reversed and remanded.