Case summaries for Jan. 20 - Jan. 26, 2023
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.
No Evidence Needed to Sustain Defendant’s Judgment
On a counter-crossclaim, the defending party had no burden of proof, so judgment for the defending party needs no supporting evidence, but circuit court made findings on the allegations in support of its judgment anyway. Defendant and co-defendant joined in some, but not all crossclaims against plaintiffs, and circuit court erred in awarding damages to a co-defendant on a crossclaim in which co-defendant did not join. And judgment awarded damages to defendant that were incurred only by the parties’ limited liability company. Remanded for an amended judgment.
SAI NATH, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant v. GIRAKUMARI PATEL and SHAILESH D. PATEL, Defendants/Cross-Claim Plaintiffs-Respondents and DHANSUKHBHAI PATEL, Cross-Claim Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37419
No Standing to Challenge Cellphone Search
Statute provides standing to file a motion to suppress for any person aggrieved by an unlawful search or seizure, meaning someone whose legitimate expectation of privacy was unlawfully disturbed, which does not include the search of a cellphone that defendant denied owning. “[A] person who disclaims ownership of an item at the time of the search cannot later claim an expectation of privacy in it.” Circuit court did not err in admitting the cellphone’s content.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent v. DAVID C. COPLEY, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37492
Comment on Credibility Okay During Interrogation
A witness cannot testify to another witness’s credibility, but that does not describe a recorded interrogation, in which the interrogating officer told defendant that the victim was credible. “[As] long as those statements are offered to provide context to a defendant's answers rather than to prove the truth of the officer's statements” “there was no testimony to the jury by” the officer. Therefore, the portions of the recorded interrogation, including the confrontation of defendant with the officer’s assessment of the victim’s credibility, were admissible.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent v. AUSTIN TYLER GRAY, Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37158
Propensity Evidence Okay
In prosecutions for sexual offenses against a child, the Missouri Constitution allows evidence of prior criminal acts for corroboration or propensity evidence, if the probative value outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice. Unfair prejudice was minimized by brevity of the testimony while the similarity of the charged offense and past unprosecuted conduct offered high probative value. Circuit court’s cautionary instructions made a mistrial unnecessary.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent vs. ARCH KEITH ROBINSON, Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37356
No Reference to Uncharged Crime
Appellant did not show that State witness’s uninvited “vague reference to misconduct” deprived appellant of a fair trial, especially when the circuit court sustained appellant’s objection, appellant sought no curative instruction, only a mistrial, and ample other evidence supported a finding of guilty.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent v. DAVID L. WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37474
Forum Selection Clause No Bar to Filing in Belize
A contract for real estate development included provisions for dispute resolution, which included a forum selection clause, but that clause applied only to litigation. In Belize, relator made a filing called a “caution,” that prevents the registration of any transaction inconsistent with the caution, so the cautioned party sought and obtained a writ of prohibition from circuit court, against which relator sought prohibition or mandamus from the Court of Appeals. “We do not concern ourselves with any distinction which may exist between the two writs.” The Court of Appeals makes it preliminary order in mandamus made permanent because “a caution does not itself trigger the resolution of the cautioner’s claim to an interest in property – it merely preserves the status quo until the cautioner’s claimed interest is resolved.” The Court of Appeals orders the circuit court to vacate its order.
STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. KEVIN KNASEL, Relator v. THE HONORABLE JASON R. BROWN, Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37861