Case summaries for Dec. 30, 2023 - Jan. 5, 2024
Each week, The Missouri Bar provides links to all hand downs published online during the past seven days by the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Missouri Bar has created headings and summaries for each case. Summaries are not part of the opinions of the Court. They have been prepared for the convenience of the reader and should not be quoted or cited.
Reversal in separate action controls remand
Appellants’ procedural argument, that a claim must name constituent individuals rather than an unincorporated association, appears for the first time on appeal and so is unpreserved. Appellants sought reversal of a judgment on substantive grounds, but a separate opinion of the Court of Appeals had already reversed the judgment in a related action on procedural grounds—failure to grant intervention as a matter of right—so the Court of Appeals did not address the substantive arguments. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with the separate opinion.
James D. Merchant, et al., James D. Merchant, Personal Representative for James T. Merchant (Deceased) vs. Michael Ray Thomas, Jeffrey P. Hoey, et al.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85650
Agreed valuation method enforced
The Save the Family Farm Act provides how to value property: by certified appraisal of fair market value; or by agreement of cotenant heirs, either to a value or to a method of valuation. The method of valuation was the subject of appellant’s appeal, but was not at issue in circuit court, so the circuit court did not err in enforcing contracts for the sale of land. Substantial evidence supported the circuit court’s finding on fair rental value.
Kristi E. Brown, et ux. vs. Elisa R. Pfeiffer
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85926
Right to intervention shown
Rule provides intervention as a matter of right when movant’s direct interest is at stake and protection of that interest might be inadequate in the movant’s absence. Movant satisfied those elements with evidence that an unincorporated association of individuals, assembled to hold a not-for-profit corporation’s property in part for movant’s benefit, was trying to transfer movant’s property and movant “was seeking to . . . take an offensive posture and assert its own claims” to the property. On those facts, the circuit court erred in denying intervention. Judgment reversed and remanded with instructions to grant intervention to movant.
James D. Merchant, et al., James D. Merchant, Personal Representative for James T. Merchant (Deceased) vs. Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Missouri
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85658
Jail phone recordings admissible
An appellate court reviews a circuit court’s admission of evidence for an abuse of discretion, meaning not sustainable on any theory, and will reverse only if an error was outcome-determinative. Reversal is less likely in a bench-tried case because appellate courts presume that the circuit judge will disregard incorrectly admitted evidence and express reliance on inadmissible evidence is necessary to rebut that presumption, so the “decision to try his case before a judge, and not a jury, ‘has fundamental evidentiary implications.’” Logical relevance is making an allegation more likely or less likely, including corroborative evidence. Legal relevance is probity that outweighs prejudice. Motive is relevant even when not an element of an offense. Defendant’s jail phone recordings included his description and motive for the charged offense and negated his defense. Defendant’s characterization of evidence does not bar the State’s characterization of that evidence. Evidence, even erroneously admitted is not prejudicial when cumulative of correctly admitted evidence.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent vs. CHRISTOPHER BROCK MANUEL, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37406
Business records affidavit explained
Statute allows the admission of business records into evidence on a foundation that includes an affidavit, meaning a written statement signed under oath and notarized. “An unnotarized digital signature . . . is insufficient under the laws of Missouri.” The circuit court’s admission of the evidence constituted an abuse of discretion, without which the outcome of the trial would reasonably likely have been different, so the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. Having done so, the Court of Appeals did not address the sufficiency of the evidence.
State of Missouri, Respondent, vs. Terry W. Holtmeyer, Appellant/Cross-Respondent.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110897