from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast
Central Judicial District, the Honorable Jon J. Jensen,
Jonathan T. Garaas, for plaintiff and appellant.
Timothy C. Lamb, for defendants and appellees; submitted on
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] Roland Riemers appealed from a judgment awarding him $8,
245.87 from Heidee Hill for unpaid rent and property damage
and ordering him to pay Ashley Roesler $10, 164 for abuse of
process. We conclude the district court erred in granting
summary judgment on the liability issue of the
abuse-of-process claim. We affirm in part and reverse the
summary judgment on liability for the abuse-of-process claim
and remand for further proceedings on that claim.
2] In August 2013, Riemers sued Heidee Hill, her husband,
Jason Hill, and her three children, Hannah Hill, Ashley
Roesler, and Hailey Marie Hill, for unpaid rent for July and
August 2013, late fees, property damage, and punitive damages
arising out of a lease agreement signed by Heidee Hill for a
house in Emerado. Only Heidee Hill signed the lease
agreement, but Heidee and Jason Hill were both identified as
applicants on the agreement and the three children were
listed as "others who will be sharing the house."
3] The Hill family moved to dismiss Riemers' complaint
for failure to state a claim and sought attorney fees. They
asserted the property was uninhabitable and had been
condemned by the Grand Forks Public Health Department in July
2013. They also counterclaimed for abuse of process, alleging
Riemers' claims for unpaid rent and property damage were
"so outrageous and ridiculous" to rise to the level
of abuse of process. They claimed that despite the property
being condemned in July 2013, Riemers sued them for
structural damage to the house that was clearly Riemers'
responsibility and Riemers had an ulterior motive to harass
and embarrass them with a lawsuit void of any factual or
4] Riemers requested a hearing on the Hill family's
motion to dismiss, and a scheduled hearing was continued at
the Hill family's request. Riemers rescheduled the
hearing for December 5, 2013, but he did not appear at that
hearing, and the district court dismissed his complaint
without prejudice. The Hill family submitted an affidavit
requesting $3, 300 in attorney fees for defending
Riemers' action, including $900 for preparation and
attendance at the December 5 hearing. The court said Riemers
"did not show for the hearing he noticed" and
ordered him to pay the Hill family $500 in attorney fees. The
court denied Riemers' request for a rehearing, stating
the dismissal without prejudice was based upon Riemers'
"non-appearance." This Court dismissed Riemers'
appeal from the dismissal because the Hill family's
unresolved counterclaim precluded immediate appellate review
and the dismissal was without prejudice. Riemers v.
Hill, 2014 ND 80, ¶¶ 7-9, 845 N.W.2d 364.
5] The district court thereafter denied Riemers' motions
to compel discovery and to vacate the dismissal of his
complaint without prejudice. The court also denied the Hill
family's motion for a default judgment on their
counterclaim for abuse of process, but granted them partial
summary judgment on the issue of liability. The court said
the Hill family provided facts supporting their claim for
abuse of process and Riemers failed to adequately respond to
the summary judgment motion with affidavits or other
admissible evidence. The court explained, however, disputed
factual issues remained on the issue of damages and denied
the Hill family summary judgment on damages.
6] In October 2014, Riemers refiled his complaint against the
Hill family for unpaid rent, late fees, property damage, and
punitive damages arising out of the lease agreement. The Hill
family answered, denying liability for unpaid rent, late
fees, and damages. The Hill family also counterclaimed,
alleging Riemers willfully filed the 2013 lawsuit despite the
report declaring the property uninhabitable and his lawsuit
resulted in Ashley Roesler being denied housing assistance
and having to procure more expensive rental housing.
7] The district court consolidated the 2013 and 2014 lawsuits
for all matters after "all the parties... indicated
their agreement to consolidation." The court again
denied Riemers' motion to compel discovery. At a bench
trial, Riemers sought reconsideration of the court's
earlier decision granting partial summary judgment on
liability on the counterclaim for abuse of process. The court
denied Riemers' request for reconsideration, stating he
had initially failed to provide a response to the motion for
summary judgment and reconsideration would eviscerate the
requirement that parties provide a response to a motion for
summary judgment. The district court thereafter found Heidee
Hill liable to Riemers for $8, 245.87 for unpaid rent and
property damage and Riemers liable to Ashley Roesler for $10,
164 for abuse of process. The court explained "Roesler
testified that because of Riemers' actions public housing
assistance she had secured was withdrawn [and although she]
was able to reinstate the assistance... Riemers' abuse of
process resulted in a delay of one year in [her] receipt of
8] Riemers argues the district court did not have authority
to award the Hill family $500 in attorney fees when his 2013
complaint was dismissed without prejudice. He contends there
was no contractual authority for that award and the court did
not make a finding his complaint was frivolous under N.D.C.C.
§ 28-26-01(2), or made without reasonable cause and not
in good faith under N.D.C.C. § 28-26-31. He claims this
Court should reverse the ...