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Minor Miracle Productions, LLC v. Randy Starkey

January 5, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. David C. Nye, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2012 Opinion No. 5

The district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings is affirmed.

Minor Miracle Productions, LLC, (MMP) is the limited liability company responsible for the film "The Hayfield." MMP is composed of David Richards, who provided a filming location and funding for the film, and Randy Starkey, who wrote and directed the film. After the film was completed, Starkey refused to turn over possession of the film and various pieces of equipment from the film. MMP brought suit against Starkey alleging breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of contract, and conversion. After initially appearing via counsel in the case, Starkey proceeded pro se. When Starkey failed to appear at motion hearings and disregarded the district court's orders regarding discovery, the court sanctioned Starkey, striking his defenses and precluding him from using any evidence not previously disclosed. MMP then moved for judgment on the pleadings,


and the district court granted the motion. The court ordered Starkey to pay Richards over one million dollars in damages and interest for the costs of the film's production, to return the film and to release the copyrights to the film and its website to Richards, and enjoined Starkey from selling the film and from using any of the equipment related to the film. Starkey timely appealed.


In 2006, David Richards and Randy Starkey formed Minor Miracle Productions, LLC for the production and sale of the movie "The Hayfield." MMP was formed under the laws of Idaho and the articles of organization were filed with the Idaho Secretary of State. Starkey was to write and direct the film while Richards provided money, equipment, and land for the filming. Richards states that he and Starkey agreed to an operating agreement for the LLC, but Starkey never signed the operating agreement. That agreement states:

David L Richards and Randal T Starkey have agreed that Mr. David L Richards as the major investor of the film "The Hayfield" will be the first to regain all of his (Mr. Richards) investments including, Cash, Equipment, and Losses that pertain to the making and marketing of this film "The Hayfield" at which point Mr. Richards and Mr. Starkey will divide the remaining proceeds equally 50/50.

At some point during filming or post-production, the relationship between Richards and Starkey broke down. Richards states that Starkey attempted to sell percentage-interests in the film and that Starkey encumbered the film without his knowledge or consent. In 2007, Starkey informed Richards that any future communication should occur through his attorney. Starkey unilaterally copyrighted the screenplay of the film and the film's website.

In September 2008, MMP filed suit against Starkey for breach of his fiduciary duties to MMP. Starkey, initially represented by counsel, filed an answer on November 7, 2008. Counsel for Starkey withdrew on July 17, 2009, and Starkey thereafter appeared pro se.

On August 11, 2009, Starkey filed a motion to dismiss, and MMP and Richards filed a motion to compel Starkey to respond to discovery requests. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and asked MMP and Richards to renotice their motion to compel. MMP and Richards later sought and were granted leave to amend the complaint, asserting claims of conversion and of breach of contract for failing to adhere to the commitment to refund Richards all of his expenditures. The court also granted MMP's motion to compel, ordering Starkey to serve supplemental discovery responses to MMP and Richards' interrogatories and to provide complete responses to the requests for document production. Starkey filed an amended answer on November 24, 2009. In December 2009, Starkey filed a motion to unseal affidavits and a motion for change of venue. Neither motion was noticed for hearing.

MMP and Richards filed a second motion to compel and motion for sanctions in February 2010, following Starkey's failure to comply with the court's prior discovery orders. The motion was properly served on Starkey. Starkey did not object to the motion to compel and failed to appear at the motion hearing. The district court granted the second motion to compel and the motion for sanctions, issuing an order striking Starkey's affirmative defenses and precluding him from advancing undisclosed witnesses or evidence. The court also awarded MMP and Richards attorney fees related to the preparation of the second motion to compel.

On February 26, 2010, Richards' attorney sent Starkey a letter requesting dates for a deposition. When Starkey failed to respond, Richards scheduled the deposition for April 5, 2010 in Pocatello. Starkey did not appear for that deposition. Richards and MMP then filed a second motion for sanctions. Again, Starkey failed to appear. The district court found that Starkey had failed to defend his ...

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