Jesse Dimmick may have made for a poor criminal but he makes for an even worse lawyer. Dimmick has sued a Kansas couple, alleging that they broke an oral contract to hide him in exchange for money. This particular breach resulted in his being shot by police.
Dimmick’s lawsuit appears in response to a lawsuit by the family seeking $75,000 from him for intruding in their home and causing emotional stress. Dimmick from Denver broke into Jared and Lindsay Rowley’s Topeka-area home in September 2009. Police were looking for him in the beating death of a Colorado man at the time. The couple escaped when he fell asleep after a meal and a movie. He was ultimately given an eleven-year sentence in 2010 for four felonies including kidnapping. He is also facing eight charges, including murder, in connection of with the killing of Michael Curtis in September 2009. It is not clear if he has a legal claim against Curtis’ family for unpaid services or restitution for his costs.
Dimmick maintains in the complaint that “I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract.” He wants $235,000 to pay for his hospital bills and a sundry other costs.
Not that the court needs any help with this one but neither tort nor contract law enforce agreements or consent based on coercion or threat. Putting aside the difficulty of enforcing an oral contract, an oral contract struck in the course of a kidnapping is particularly challenging. Indeed a Kansas case has often by cited by courts for this basic proposition as in Fountain v. Bigham 235 Pa. 35 (Penn. 1912):
That a contract obtained by duress or acts of coercion or intimidation may be invalidated is well settled. Under such circumstances, the party coerced is not exercising his free will but executing the will of the party who subjects him to the coercion, and, therefore, the instrument bearing his signature is not the contract of the party against whom it is sought to be enforced. Such contracts are procured by duress and may be invalidated. The test of duress is not so much the means by which the party was compelled to execute the contract as it is the state of mind induced by the means employed, — the fear which made it impossible for him to exercise his own free will: Williamson-Halsell Frazier Co. v. Ackerman (Kan.) 20 L.R.A. (N.S.) 484.
In addition, Restatement (Second) covers unconscionable contracts:
§208. UNCONSCIONABLE CONTRACT OR TERM
If a contract or term thereof is unconscionable at the time the contract is made a court may refuse to enforce the contract, or may enforce the remainder of the contract without the unconscionable term, or may so limit the application of any unconscionable term as to avoid any unconscionable result.
What the filing does establish as a clear matter of law is a frivolous pleading subject to sanctions under Rule II, or the state equivalent in Kansas. Of course, Dimmick is the ultimate judgment proof defendant. I doubt a sanction for legal fees will concentrate his mind on top of the 11-year sentence and possible life imprisonment on the new charges.