Case summaries for May 15 - May 21
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 Facts Describing Coverage Alleged, No Claim Stated
To state a claim on which a circuit court can grant relief requires the claimant party at least to plead the ultimate facts, not mere conclusions, that a jury must find to award relief. Victim received injury, at business where security provider had a commercial lines policy from insurer, so business owner and victim brought claims against insurer for equitable garnishment, bad faith, and breach of duty to defend. Each of those claims requires findings that include coverage under a policy issued by the insurer. Statements that insurer’s policy covered the injury, that the security company agreed to indemnify the business owner, and that insurer waived a defense, each constitute a mere conclusion, not the pleading of an ultimate fact that states a claim. And neither waiver nor estoppel establish coverage. Because claimants stated no claim, circuit court correctly dismissed the claims. That judgment is certifiable for appeal, despite claims against other insurers still pending in circuit court, because each claim addresses a different contract of insurance with a different insured.
David McConnell and CS&L Investments, Inc. vs. West Bend Mutual Insurance Company
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD82865 and WD82872
No Breach, No Tortious Interference
On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, when movant or non-movant includes matters outside the pleadings, and the court did not exclude those matters, the courts must rule on, and review, the motion as a motion for summary judgment. Claimant’s motion for summary judgment fails if non-movant negates any one element of the claim. Elements of a claim for tortious interference with contract include a breach of contract. Breach of contract did not occur when a party gave notice of non-renewal in accordance with contract, which required notice “within thirty (30) days prior to the end of the then existing term [.]” Under that language, notice more than thirty days before the end of the term was not premature and was timely. Inquiries related to the termination as noticed did not show a breach of the contract.
TNT Amusements, Inc., Appellant, vs. BFC Enterprises, Inc. and BNS&C, LLC, Respondents.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED108209
Speedy Trial No Issue After Guilty Plea
A knowing and voluntary guilty plea bars any challenge to whether trial was speedy. Appellant does not argue that his guilty plea was less than voluntary and knowing. Conviction affirmed.
State of Missouri, Respondent v. Antonio Pleaz Walker, Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD36254
The elements of murder in the first degree include deliberation, meaning cool reflection on the conduct resulting in death, which “is not a question of time – an instant is sufficient – and ... does not require that the defendant be detached or disinterested.” Supporting evidence included an immediately preceding quarrel, acceleration over 380 feet, a sharp turn to hit victims, and seeking no medical help for victims. Conviction affirmed.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent v. WILLIAM JOSHUA CARTER, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD35736
Arrest Did Not Require Restraint
The elements of suspension for driving while intoxicated include having been arrested, which usually requires physically restraining driver, not just declaring that driver is under arrest. Driver was already injured and in a hospital bed in a neck brace, so no further restraint was necessary or desirable, since it could interfere with treatment. Arrest may also occur when driver submits to a show of authority, which happened when officer told driver about implied consent and driver agreed to a blood test. Further, arrest occurs when a reasonable person does not feel free to leave, which happens when informed about implied consent.
Jena Rae Haffner, Respondent, vs. Director of Revenue, State of Missouri, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED107926
No Misconduct Shown
The purpose of employment security is to protect persons who lose their jobs when it isn’t their fault. Fault does not include negligence at the ordinary level like ordinary “negligence, accidents and mistakes, bad judgment, or poor workmanship [.]” Such failures are grounds for firing but do not constitute misconduct that disqualifies a claimant for benefits unless they rise to a greater level of culpability like “knowing disregard of the employer’s interest or a knowing violation of the standards which the employer expects of his or her employee [; or] in such degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or a knowing disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer[.]” None of those mental states accompanied claimant’s failure to timely file a complete report according to any allegation made by employer or fact found by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. “A simple statement that Employee committed a ‘willful violation’ is not a factual finding, but, rather, a conclusion of law.”
HILDA TAVENNER, Claimant-Appellant vs. PRESBYTERIAN MANORS, INC., Employer-Respondent and MISSOURI DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD36367
Dying Declaration Discussed
A statement made out of court and offered in court for the truth of the matter stated is subject to objection as hearsay, with certain exceptions, including a dying declaration. A dying declaration is a hearsay statement that the declarant makes while under “the impression of almost immediate death [.]” Factors showing victim’s belief in imminent death included the gravity of victim’s wounds and effort needed to call 911 and speak defendant’s name. Circuit court did not err in admitting testimony recounting declarant’s statement.
State of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent v. Christopher L. Paschall, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD35688
Kansas Law Governs Injury in Missouri
In circuit court, plaintiff Kansas state worker sued another Kansas state worker for negligence occurring in Missouri. Generally, Missouri law applies to events in Missouri, but plaintiff specifically chose remedies under Kansas workers’ compensation, so Kansas law governs. Kansas law provides that remedies in its workers’ compensation law are exclusive generally, and specifically as to injuries between Kansas state workers, so circuit court was correct in dismissing plaintiff’s petition for negligence.
Tonda Hill vs. Steven Freedman
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD82657 and WD82771
Abandonment Applies to Appointed Counsel Only
“[T]he post-conviction rules created a limited right to appointed counsel for indigent movants [,]” which includes the right to a timely filing of an amended motion, so the doctrine of abandonment excuses untimely filing by appointed counsel. Appointed counsel is due only for indigent persons, so, once movant retains private counsel, abandonment does not apply. No inquiry into abandonment was due. No extension of the time to file an amended motion occurs unless circuit court grants a motion for extension. Findings of fact and conclusions of law are due even when counsel fails to appear for an evidentiary hearing. Dismissal for failure to prosecute reversed and remanded.
Richard A. Williams, Appellant, vs. State of Missouri, Respondent.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED107878
When LLC Purchased Alter-Ego’s Promissory Notes, Merger Extinguished Deed of Trust
A deed of trust always follows, and cannot be separated from, the note it secures. So, paying off the note extinguishes the deed and leaves no secured interest. A deed of trust secured the promissory notes of a debtor limited liability company (“LLC”). Another LLC purchased the notes, but that other LLC was merely an alter ego of the debtor, so the purchase constituted one LLC paying off its own debt. Therefore, the purchase extinguished the secured interest, so no security accompanied the notes when a creditor bought them. The creditor was in privity with the alter ego LLC, and so collateral estoppel precluded the creditor from re-litigating the alter ego issue.
MEADOWFRESH SOLUTIONS USA, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant v. MAPLE GROVE FARMS, LLC, LEON RINEHART, TED DAHLSTROM, CAROL DAHLSTROM, CURTIS HALL, LISA HALL, KYLE BOUNOUS, Defendants-Respondents/Cross Appellants and EUGENE ENOWSKI, Creditor-Respondent/Cross-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD35874, SD35882 and SD35883