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Case summaries for Nov. 25 - Dec. 3


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.

Criminal | FamilyMiscellaneous Actions | Personal Injury | Post-Conviction Relief | Probate


Jurors’ Lapse of Attention Discussed
The record did not show that any juror fell asleep, only that alternates fell asleep and jurors’ attention lapsed, so circuit court recast a juror to an alternate. Those facts do not violate constitutional and statutory guarantees to a jury trial, require removal of a juror, or declare for a mistrial. Circuit court did not plainly err in admitting evidence that defendant blamed alternative personalities for defendant’s conduct because that evidence showed defendant’s guilt and defendant’s consciousness of guilt.
State of Missouri vs. Justin Andrew Todd
(Overview Summary)
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD82819


Child’s Best Interests Shown
In an action to terminate parental rights, the elements include the child’s best interest, for which statutes provide a list of seven factors, of which the circuit court concluded that six supported termination. That conclusion had support in evidence that appellant seldom attempted to contact child and never tried to support child, resulting in “a mental disorder known as Reactive Attachment Disorder [;]” and child is in a home where child receives care and treatment for her condition, while appellant cannot provide a stable home for at least the next six years. 
IN THE INTEREST OF: M.K.S., a minor child. LAWRENCE COUNTY JUVENILE OFFICE, Petitioner-Respondent, vs. W.J.S., Respondent-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD36702

Miscellaneous Actions

No Nepotism Shown In Special Prosecutor Appointments
An action in quo warranto can enforce forfeiture of office, as the Missouri Constitution provides for nepotism, but nepotism does not occur when a circuit court appoints a special prosecutor. Trial court has both inherent and statutory authority to appoint more than one attorney, and even an entire office, as a special prosecutor. Judgment on quo warranto is subject to de novo review.
State of Missouri ex rel., Kimberly Gardner, in her capacity as the Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis, Appellant, vs. Gerard T. Carmody, in his special capacity as Special Prosecutor, Respondent.
(Overview Summary)
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED108380

Personal Injury

Punitive Damages Claim Makes Mental State Relevant in Strict Liability Theory
On a claim for strict products liability, defendant’s knowledge as to product design is irrelevant. But on a claim for punitive damages, defendant’s knowledge is an element. Plaintiff’s prayers for relief included punitive damages, so evidence of defendant’s compliance with industry standards was relevant and circuit court did not err in admitting that evidence.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD36576

Post-Conviction Relief

Inquiry on Abandonment Required
On late filing of an amended motion, circuit “court has the discretion to make this inquiry as formal or informal as it deems necessary to resolve the question of abandonment;” but it must make the inquiry on a record sufficient for appellate review.
Joevalis Johnson, Movant/Appellant, vs. State of Missouri, Defendant/Respondent.
(Overview Summary)
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED108539

Record Must Support Inquiry
Late filing of amended motion waives claims in amended motion, leaving only claims in the initial motion, unless late filing resulted from abandonment. Circuit court’s record on abandonment is inadequate for appellate review, so Court of Appeals reverses and remands.
Terrell Gran Johnson, Appellant, vs. State of Missouri, Respondent.
(Overview Summary)
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED108454


Evidence Irrelevant to Discovery of Assets
Plaintiff brought an action for discovery of assets based on decedent’s mental capacity when changing transfer-on-death beneficiaries. Whether decedent ever gave plaintiff any money, and what defendant did with money gained from that change, were irrelevant, so circuit court did not err in excluding that evidence. A challenge to the exclusion of evidence must have support in an offer of proof or an exception to that requirement. Rule governing points relied on includes a template for drafting so appellants “have no excuse” for a faulty point.
IN RE THE ESTATE OF VIRGINIA ALICE TOPPING, FRANK W. LAMPKIN, Executor of the Last Will and Testament of Helen Lampkin, Respondent vs. SAM RYAN, ALEX RYAN and, LAURA RYAN, Appellants
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD36630