Case summaries for Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 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.
Enforcement of settlement explained
Rule provides that any matter raised in a bench trial is preserved without a motion for new trial or a motion to amend. Enforcement of a settlement is not limited to any one procedure, and appeared in the parties’ motions and responses as a claim and as a defense, so the circuit court did not rule beyond the relief requested on that matter. The parties were free to compromise their claims in settlement of their dispute, and their settlement unambiguously described a distribution of trust assets, so the circuit court erred in considering party testimony and trust language over settlement language. The Court of Appeals reverses the circuit court’s judgment and, accordingly, its award of attorney fees.
R. Finley, et al., Respondents, v. Karen I. Finley, et al., Appellants.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED111296
Hancock violation alleged
On a challenge to constitutionality of legislation, the challenger has the burden of proof, and will not prevail any further than a clear showing of constitutional contravention requires. A bill “relating to public safety” might lack a clear title, but did constitute a single subject, and its original purpose remained unaltered by “myriad” amendments. A grant of public funds for a private purpose, the legal defense and indemnification of police officers for off-duty conduct, is not unconstitutional because the grant’s primary purpose is public: making “employment as a police officer—an already risky profession—a little less risky [.]” Police officers are different from other City employees, so their benefits can be different from other City employees without offending Equal Protection, and enhanced procedure for police officer discipline has a rational relationship to maintaining police protection. The Missouri Constitution’s Hancock Amendment bars the General Assembly from mandating any additional duty that increases expenses for political subdivisions. Procedural limitations on existing authority do not constitute an additional expense. Political subdivisions and taxpayers have standing to seek relief from a violation of the Hancock Amendment. On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the pleadings alone are at issue. The plaintiff City sufficiently alleged a Hancock violation by alleging the ultimate fact of newly mandated expenses and citing examples, which also showed a ripe controversy, so the circuit court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings for the defendant State.
City of St. Louis, et al., Appellants, v. State of Missouri, et al., Respondents.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC99876
Animal abuse conviction affirmed
The elements of animal abuse, by causing an animal to suffer, included purpose. Purpose meant that the result was a conscious object. Evidence that defendant beat and choked a dog supported a finding that defendant intended the dog to suffer. Defendant’s declared objective, of sacrificing the dog to the devil, did not change that result because the statutes distinguish purposeful suffering from humane killing. Conviction affirmed.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent vs. KEITH EDWARD MCINTOSH, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37827
Chronic offender status unsupported
Statute enhances the degree of the offense of driving while intoxicated if the State shows a sufficient number of prior convictions, within a specified time, in which “the conduct involved constituted ‘driving while intoxicated’ ... as defined at the time of the current offense ... , not the time of the conduct underlying the prior conviction.” Driving means “physically driving or operating [,]” and not “merely being in ‘actual physical control’ of, a vehicle. Which of those possibilities was the basis for earlier convictions is subject to no inference from the record. An enhanced sentence is subject to appeal for sufficiency of the evidence, which need not be included in a motion for new trial, as in any bench ruling. “[T]he state should have to carry its burden of proof without prompting from the defendant.” Remanded for re-sentencing.
State of Missouri, Respondent, vs. David Scott Nowicki, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC100041
Unanimity instruction required
Any unpreserved error, even constitutional error, is subject to plain error review exclusively. Constitutional provisions state “twelve people [must] unanimously concur in the guilt of the defendant before [the defendant] can be legally convicted.” That requirement is the subject of an approved instruction that the circuit court must read in any criminal action. The circuit court’s failure to deliver the unanimity instruction was evident, obvious, and clear error. Manifest injustice or a miscarriage of justice resulted because nothing else informed the jury of the unanimity requirement, like a mention from the bench or either party or a poll of the jury; nothing showed that the verdict was unanimous, like the verdict form; and the error excused the State from its burden of proof. The defense’s lapses do not constitute invited error. Conviction reversed and remanded.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent vs. NAPOLEON EMANUEL, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37611
Claims stated for discrimination and hostile work environment
Judgment that dismissed all claims of some petitioners disposed of a judicial unit and was subject to certification for appeal. A petition states a claim for relief when the petition alleges the facts that a jury must find to grant relief. The elements of claims for racial discrimination by hostile work environment include harassment motivated by appellants’ membership in a protected class, which appellants satisfied with allegations of racist incidents. Appellants need not plead their individual subjective experiences to state a claim because “these incidents – such as nooses, graffitied swastikas, and racist threats written on bathroom walls – by their very nature, targeted and preyed on all black employees in the Plant.” A reasonable person views those incidents as severe and pervasive. Allegations that employers racially segregated facilities and suppressed complaints of racism stated a claim for aiding and abetting. Dismissal reversed for proceedings on appellants’ claims of racial discrimination, hostile work environment, and aiding and abetting that conduct.
Emanuel Matthews, et al., Appellants, vs. Harley Davidson, et al., Respondents.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC100116
Statute on Child’s and Other Vulnerable Person’s Hearsay Discussed
Statute admitted out-of-court statements from a child or other vulnerable person if that person testified in court and the statement had other indicia of reliability under the totality of the circumstances. The circumstances included initiative and spontaneity. Defendant did not negate those qualities, by showing that the statements resulted from questioning by authority figures, and did not show any motive to fabricate. When a witness testifies on the same matter as a hearsay statement, the hearsay statement is not prejudicial, so admitting the hearsay statement could not constitute plain error.
State of Missouri vs. Joshua Aaron Lewis
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85845
Tolling for continuing care and treatment discussed
Statute of limitations against a physician was two years, and physicians have a duty of continuing care, so the statute starts running when continuing care and treatment ends. The summary judgment record established, beyond genuine dispute, that the plaintiff patient went off defendant physician’s treatment plan, in favor of another physician’s treatment plan without consulting defendant. That event “unmistakably signaled his intent to end the continuing care relationship” and started the time running to file a malpractice action against defendant, which the plaintiff failed to meet. The circuit court did not err in entering summary judgment for defendant.
Dane Templeton, Appellant, vs. Charles Orth, D.O., and Orthopedic Surgeons, Inc., Respondents.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC100089
No malice in high speed chase
The doctrine of official immunity protects public employees from any claim of negligence based on allegations that constitute “performing a discretionary act within the course of official duties without malice.” “[M]alice ordinarily requires ‘actual intent to cause injury’” and recklessness does not rise to that level. Defendant law enforcement officer established, without genuine dispute, facts that negated malice. Summary judgment for defendant affirmed.
John Carlton, Appellant, vs. Brandon Means, Respondent.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED111694
Second amended motion okay
Rule provided that a motion was subject to the rule in effect when movant was sentenced, which started the time for filing the motion with the filing of the transcripts, and nothing barred the timely filing of a second amended motion. The second amended motion was timely, so the circuit court was required to rule on all claims in the second amended motion, but the circuit court did not rule on all claims. Appeal dismissed for lack of final judgment.
Jermaine D. Williams vs. State of Missouri
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85546
Findings of fact and conclusions required
Rule requires circuit court to make written findings of fact and conclusions of law, even when the circuit court conducted no evidentiary hearing, so that an appellate court make conduct its review. The circuit court’s initial judgment included no findings of fact and conclusions of law, and the State filed a motion to amend accordingly. The circuit court issued an amended judgment that incorporated the State’s response to the motion, but the State’s response included no findings of fact and conclusions of law, either. The State again filed a motion to amend accordingly, preserving the issue, on which the circuit court did not rule. “Supplying the necessary findings and conclusions by implication would constitute an improper de novo review on appeal.” Reversed and remanded for the circuit court to make written findings of fact and conclusions of law.
THOMAS E. ELSTON, Appellant vs. STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37912
Time to file unlawful detainer started with demand
Statute governing unlawful detainer actions applies to wrongful possessors and holdover tenants. Holdover tenancy did not apply to defendant because tenancy required a contract between plaintiff and defendant, and defendant’s contract was with a third party. Instead, wrongful possession applied, because defendant dispossessed the rightful possessor and failed to deliver possession on written demand. The written demand started the running of time to file a wrongful detainer action.
Ida Catherine Adams, f/k/a Ida Catherine Watring, Appellant, v. Diane Ware, et al., Respondents.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED111617