Suppes v. Curators of the Univ. of Mo.

Decision Date17 November 2020
Docket NumberWD 83509
Citation613 S.W.3d 836
Parties Galen SUPPES, Appellant, v. The CURATORS OF the UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, et al., Respondents.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Galen J. Suppes, Columbia, MO, Appellant, pro se.

Dale C. Doerhoff, Heidi Doerhoff Vollet, and Shelly A. Kintzel, Jefferson City, MO, Attorneys for Respondents.

Before Division One: Thomas N. Chapman, Presiding Judge, and Mark D. Pfeiffer and W. Douglas Thomson, Judges

Mark D. Pfeiffer, Judge

Mr. Galen Suppes ("Suppes") appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri ("trial court"), granting the motion of The Curators of the University of Missouri ("University") and other University-related defendants to dismiss Suppes's first amended petition and dismissing the petition with prejudice.1 We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background2

The lawsuit underlying this appeal is the latest in more than a decade of administrative proceedings and state and federal court litigation between Suppes and the University.3

2009 Boone County Lawsuit

Suppes began his employment at the University on August 1, 2001, as a professor of chemical engineering. In April 2009, in the Boone County Circuit Court, the University filed a petition for declaratory judgment, breach of contract, injunctive relief, and monetary damages against Suppes for failing to assign rights to inventions and intellectual property developed while he was an employee (Case No. 09BA-CV02314) ("2009 Boone County Lawsuit"). Suppes asserted counterclaims against the University but dismissed them with prejudice during trial. A trial was conducted from August 25 through September 6, 2017. The jury found in favor of the University on its claims of breach of contract and breach of the duty of loyalty and awarded $300,000 in damages on each claim. The court entered judgment in favor of the University and against Suppes for $600,000 plus interest. The court also ordered Suppes: (1) to provide to the University a sworn written accounting of all inventions made by him between August 1, 2001, and the end of his employment with the University and to provide a detailed description of each such invention; (2) to provide to the University an accounting of all revenue and other consideration he received from such inventions; (3) to pay over to the University all revenue and other consideration he received from such inventions; and (4) to execute an assignment to the University for any inventions related to certain technology. Suppes appealed, and the judgment was affirmed by this court in Curators of University of Missouri v. Suppes , 583 S.W.3d 49 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019).

Employment Dismissal for Cause Proceeding

By letter dated September 2, 2016, Suppes was notified by the University of a charge seeking his dismissal from employment with the University for cause. Cause for dismissal included intimidation/harassment/bullying and exploitation/coercion of students, neglect of teaching duties, creation of a hostile work environment, and violations of the University's intellectual property rules and regulations. After conducting a number of hearing sessions regarding the charge, on May 15, 2017, the MU Campus Faculty Tenure Committee made a unanimous written recommendation to the University's interim chancellor that the evidence warranted Suppes's dismissal for cause ("Dismissal for Cause Proceeding"). In a letter dated May 25, 2017, the interim chancellor reported the findings and recommendations of the Committee, stated that he concurred with the Committee, and terminated Suppes's tenured faculty appointment and employment at the University effective May 25, 2017. The interim chancellor stated: "You are required to have prior written permission from me in my role as Provost prior to coming onto campus."

On September 29, 2016, Suppes filed a declaratory judgment action requesting that the court declare that the University's written procedures for dismissal for cause violated due process and requesting injunctive relief to prevent the University from proceeding with the dismissal for cause. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of the University. Suppes appealed. This court found that the University's procedures for dismissal of tenured faculty for cause satisfied due process, and affirmed the trial court's judgment. Suppes v. Curators of the Univ. of Mo. , 529 S.W.3d 825 (Mo. App. W.D. 2017).

A few months later, in September 2017, Suppes filed a petition for judicial review of the Dismissal for Cause Proceeding in the Circuit Court of Cole County (Case No. 17AC-CC00505). That case was dismissed without prejudice due to inactivity in March 2018.

2018 Federal Lawsuit

On November 9, 2018, Suppes filed a complaint in federal court against certain University-related defendants (Case No. 2:18-CV-04230-MDH) ("2018 Federal Lawsuit"). Suppes's Second Amended Complaint alleged thirty-seven claims against twelve different defendants:

Count I – First Amendment Violation by Stokes in her individual capacity
Count II – Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations by Stokes in her individual capacity
Count III – Abuse of Process against Stokes in her individual capacity
Count IV – Patent Misuse against Owens, Hoskins, Loboa, Cooper, Jones, Pinhero, Polsinelli, and Choi in their individual and professional capacities
Count V – Abuse of Process against Owens and Hoskins in their individual capacities
Count VI – Abuse of Process against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count VII – Abuse of Process against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count VIII – Abuse of Process against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count IX – Fraudulent Misrepresentation against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count X – Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count XI – Fraudulent Misrepresentation against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count XII – Abuse of Process against Jones, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities and against Jones in his official capacity
Count XIII – First Amendment Violation against Cooper, Loboa, and Freyermuth in their individual capacities
Count XIV – Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations against Cooper, Loboa, and Freyermuth in their individual capacities
Count XV – Sixth Amendment Violation against Cooper, Loboa, and Freyermuth in their individual capacities
Count XVI – Additional Violation of Rights of Due Process against Cooper, Loboa, and Freyermuth in their individual capacities
Count XVII – Civil Conspiracy against Loboa, Pinhero, Stokes, and Cooper in their individual capacities
Count XVIII – Abuse of Process against Cooper, Loboa, and Freyermuth in their individual capacities
Count XIX – Abuse of Process against Loboa, Pinhero, Cooper, Owens, and Hoskins in their individual capacities
Count XX – Restraint of Trade against Owens, Loboa, Cooper, Jones, Pinhero, Polsinelli, Freyermuth, Stokes, and Choi in their individual and professional capacities
Count XXI – Libel against the Tribune and Keller
Count XXII – Defamation against the Tribune and Keller
Count XXIII – Defamation against Jones, Stokes, Loboa, Cooper, Pinhero, and Freyermuth in their individual capacities
Count XXIV – Tortious Interference against Pinhero in his individual capacity
Count XXV – Prima Facie Tort against Pinhero in his individual capacity
Count XXVI – Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against Cooper
Count XXVII – Fourteenth Amendment Violation against Owens, Hoskins, Stokes, Loboa, Cooper, Jones, and Pinhero in their individual capacities
Count XXVIII – Fraudulent Misrepresentation against Owens, Hoskins, Loboa, Cooper, and Pinhero in their individual capacities
Count XXIX – Injunctive Relief against the Tribune
Count XXX – Declaratory Judgment against Polsinelli
Count XXXI – Fourteenth Amendment Violation against Choi in his individual and professional capacity
Count XXXII – Negligent Misrepresentation Tort against Owens, Hoskins, Loboa, Cooper, Jones, Pinhero, Polsinelli, Freyermuth, Stokes, and Choi in their individual and professional capacities
Count XXXIII – Civil Illegal Conspiracy against Owens and Hoskins in their individual capacities
Count XXXIV – Injunctive Relief on violation of the First Amendment against Stokes in her official capacity
Count XXXV – Injunctive Relief on Misuse of Patent Law against Owens in his official capacity
Count XXXVI – Injunctive Relief on Misuse of Patent Law against Owens in his official capacity
Count XXXVII – Injunctive Relief on Arbitrary and Capricious Administrative Process against Choi in his official capacity

The defendants moved to dismiss, and on August 1, 2019, the district court dismissed that lawsuit for failure to state a claim. Suppes did not appeal the district court's judgment.

2019 Boone County Lawsuit

Suppes filed his petition against the University in the lawsuit underlying this appeal on July 8, 2019, claiming "violations related (1) to handling of intellectual property, (2) termination of Plaintiff's position as Professor on May 25, 2017, and (3) related acts all occurring from July of 2014 to present" (Case No. 19BA-CV02685). Suppes filed his First Amended Petition on July 16, 2019, adding a number of individual University-related defendants "in their Official Capacities on contract law violations" and adding a cause of action related to abuse of process. Suppes alleged:

• Count I: Breach of Contract against the University, alleging violation of the University's Collected Rules and
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