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Kim v. Chang

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

June 27, 2018

SUK C. KIM, Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
JUNG HYUN CHANG, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; William P. Levens, Senior Judge and Robert A. Foster, Jr., Judge.

          Laura H. Howard and Mark S. Howard of Mark S. Howard, P.A., Tampa (withdrew after briefing); Daniel A. Nicholas of Litchfield Cavo LLP, Tampa (substituted as counsel of record), for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Brian P. Rush of Woodlief & Rush, P.A., Tampa, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

          SALARIO, JUDGE.

         Suk Kim appeals from a final judgment that, among other things, awarded Jung Chang $15, 000 on a counterclaim for battery and $165, 000 on a counterclaim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Ms. Chang cross-appeals the same judgment insofar as it denied her both a recovery on a counterclaim for breach of an oral loan agreement with Mr. Kim and an award of punitive damages. Because Ms. Chang failed to introduce legally sufficient evidence that she suffered severe emotional distress, we reverse the judgment entered against Mr. Kim on the intentional infliction counterclaim. As to Mr. Kim's appeal on the battery counterclaim and Ms. Chang's cross-appeal, we affirm the judgment without comment.

         I.

         A.

         The evidence taken in the light most favorable to the judgment reflects the following. Born in South Korea, Ms. Chang moved to the United States in 1999. Her sister, Sook Chang, was married to Mr. Kim and lived in Tampa. Mr. Kim and Sook Chang had a grocery store on Hillsborough Avenue. Ms. Chang and her son moved in with Mr. Kim and Sook Chang, and Ms. Chang worked at the store. Mr. Kim and Sook Chang adopted Ms. Chang's son so that he could remain in the United States legally.

         In 2001, Ms. Chang agreed to lend Mr. Kim money for repairs and improvements to the grocery store. Like many deals between family members, this one was not clearly spelled out. For example, Mr. Kim and Ms. Chang did not agree on a specific interest rate or time for repayment but seem to have understood that interest would accrue at the "commercial bank rate" and that Mr. Kim planned to repay the loan when he obtained a new loan from an actual bank. All in all, Ms. Chang advanced $164, 050 to Mr. Kim, which came from the proceeds of a life insurance policy that were paid to Ms. Chang when her husband died. There is no question that Mr. Kim used the money to make improvements to his store.

         In February 2002, Mr. Kim got a bank loan from the Bank of Tampa. Ms. Chang did not then demand repayment of the loan. This may have been because Ms. Chang was concerned about making demands of Mr. Kim before she had become a legal permanent resident of the United States. In September 2007, Ms. Chang asked Mr. Kim why he had not repaid the loan and whether he then had the money to repay it with interest. Ms. Chang says that as a result, she and Mr. Kim orally agreed to extend the due date of the note; Mr. Kim denies it.

         In 2008, Ms. Chang tried to get Mr. Kim to repay the loan, which he declined to do. In addition, Ms. Chang says that while she was working in the kitchen at Mr. Kim's home, Mr. Kim approached her, "groped her," and pressed his body against hers. Two months later, Ms. Chang and her son moved out of Mr. Kim's home and into an apartment. Mr. Kim cosigned the papers necessary for her to get the apartment and gave her furniture for it. In 2009, Ms. Chang, Mr. Kim, and Sook Chang entered into a contract whereby Mr. Kim and Sook Chang bought a home that Ms. Chang and her son moved into and gave Ms. Chang the option to buy the property before 2012.

         In May 2012, after an extended visit to South Korea, Ms. Chang moved back in with Mr. Kim and Sook Chang. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Chang and Mr. Kim had an argument. Ms. Chang demanded that Mr. Kim pay back the $164, 050. Tempers flared. Mr. Kim said he would never pay Ms. Chang back. Mr. Kim pushed Ms. Chang down three stairs and when she attempted to get up pushed her down again. Mr. Kim called the police to evict her without giving her time to collect her belongings. He told the police that Ms. Chang should be arrested and deported to Korea. Ms. Chang suffered pain and a bruise to her leg. Shortly ...


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