Articles Posted in Missouri Supreme Court

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Patrick O’Basuyi filed suit against several defendants (collectively, “TriStar”) for breach of contract, quantum meruit and fraudulent conveyance. TriStar responded by filing a counterclaim for malicious prosecution. O’Basuyi filed a motion for separate trial of TriStar’s counterclaims. The trial court overruled the motion for separate trial, determining that Mo. R. Civ. P. 55.06, which governs joinder of claims, authorized its denial of O’Basuyi’s motion for separate trial of the malicious prosecution claim. O’Basuyi subsequently sought a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court granted the request writ, holding (1) Rule 55.06 does not permit either joinder or trial of a malicious prosecution counterclaim with the underlying claim; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred in permitting the joint trial of the defendants’ counterclaim and O’Basuyi’s claims. View "State ex rel. O'Basuyi v. Hon. David Lee Vincent III" on Justia Law

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Franklin Quick Cash, LLC, a payday and title lending company, was sued for wrongfully repossessing a vehicle. Franklin had a commercial general liability insurance policy with Continental Western Insurance Co. that covered liability for accidents but precluded coverage of liability for property damage “expected or intended” by the insured. Continental Western refused to provide a defense on the grounds that Franklin’s actions leading to the suit were intentional. Franklin sued Continental Western for wrongful refusal to defend. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Franklin. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Continental Western did not have a duty to defend because Franklin intended to repossess the vehicle, and therefore, there was no potential for coverage at the outset of the underlying lawsuit. View "Allen vs. Continental W. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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A class of Plaintiffs brought suit against Insured, a hotel proprietor, alleging that Insured violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The class and Insured subsequently reached a settlement. The class then filed a garnishment action against Insurer. Insurer sought a declaratory judgment that its policy with Insured did not provide coverage because the policy did not cover damages awarded related to the TCPA. The trial found (1) Insurer owed Insured a duty to defend in the class actions because the class's claims were covered under the policy; and (2) Insurer had a duty to indemnify Insured for the full settlement plus interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court correctly determined that Insurer wrongly refused to defend Insured under its policy coverage; (2) Insurer was not entitled to a reassessment of the reasonableness of the settlement; and (3) policy limits did not bar Insurer's indemnification of the settlement. View "Columbia Cas. Co. v. HIAR Holding, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff rented a garden tiller from Home Depot by signing a tool rental agreement. Plaintiff subsequently filed a class-action lawsuit against Home Depot, claiming that it violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) by automatically including a damage waiver fee in its agreement and not making clear in the agreement that the damage waiver fee was optional. Plaintiff also claimed the damage waiver was of no value. The trial court granted summary judgment for Home Depot. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the damage waiver in the rental contract was clearly optional and provided a benefit of value to Plaintiff, Home Depot did not engage in any unfair practice prohibited by the MMPA. View "Chochorowski v. Home Depot U.S.A." on Justia Law

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In 2007, Anita Johnson purchased a vehicle from a dealership operated by JF Enterprises. Johnson signed numerous documents at a single sitting, including a retail installment contract and a one-page arbitration agreement. In 2010, Johnson sued the dealership, its president (Franklin), and the vehicle manufacturer (American Suzuki), claiming negligent misrepresentation. Franklin and JF Enterprises moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement. The trial court overruled the motion, finding that the installment contract did not refer to or incorporate the arbitration agreement and contained a merger clause stating that it contained the parties' entire agreement as to financing. The Supreme Court reversed after noting that contemporaneously signed documents will be construed together and harmonized if possible, holding that because the separate arbitration agreement was a dispute resolution agreement, not an additional financing document, it could be harmonized with the installment contract and was not voided by operation of the merger clause. View "Johnson v. JF Enters., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff's young son was injured by an uninsured motorist while he was a passenger in his daycare provider's van. Plaintiff filed a petition on behalf of her son against the daycare provider's insurance company, Shelter Mutual, alleging that her child was an "insured" under the uninsured motorist provisions of the policy. The policy defined "insured" to include owners, operators, and other users who exercise physical control of the right of control of the vehicle. The trial court granted summary judgment to Shelter. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the uninsured motorist statute requires coverage of all passengers within the definition of "user." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's child was not an insured because (1) Plaintiff's child was not included in the definition of "insured" under the policy itself; (2) the financial responsibility law implies coverage as a matter of law in a policy for owners, operators and users to the extent that liability may be imposed on them under Missouri law for damages arising out of such ownership, operation, or use; and (3) Plaintiff's child did not come within this scope of coverage. View "Steele v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against West County Motor Company for violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) and for conversion. Each plaintiff paid a deposit to West County to secure the purchase of a vehicle and signed a vehicle buyer's order providing that "all deposits are non refundable." However, all plaintiffs but one alleged that West County told them their deposits were refundable if the purchase was not completed. When Plaintiffs decided not to purchase their vehicles, West County told them their deposits would not be refunded. The trial court dismissed the MMPA claims for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court's dismissal of that portion of Plaintiffs' claims alleging violations of the MMPA based on violations of Mo. Rev. Stat. 364.070.4; and (2) reversed the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims alleging violations of the MMPA based on conversion, lack of good faith, and an illegal liquidated damages clause, as Plaintiffs' allegations of conversion, unlawful liquidated damages, and lack of good faith were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Ward v. W. County Motor Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants lost their home in a foreclosure sale. When Appellants failed to vacate the home, Wells Fargo Bank, the foreclosure purchaser, sued for unlawful detainer. Appellants raised equitable defenses and counterclaims concerning the validity of Wells Fargo's title. Wells Fargo successfully moved to dismiss the defenses and counterclaims on the ground that they exceeded the statutory scope of issues that may be litigated in an unlawful detainer action under Mo. Rev. Stat. 534.210. The circuit court then granted summary judgment to Wells Fargo. Appellants appealed, arguing that section 534.210, which prohibits a defendant from raising equitable defenses and/or challenges to the validity of the plaintiff's title in an unlawful detainer action, was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) statutory limitations on the scope of unlawful detainer actions are not unconstitutional; and (2) Appellants failed to raise a genuine issue of fact concerning Wells Fargo's right to possession. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Smith" on Justia Law

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A construction crane owned and operated by a construction company (Jacobsmeyer) fell on a building. Jacobsmeyer's insurer (Travelers) reached a settlement agreement with the designer and manufacturer of the crane (Grove) wherein Grove agreed to pay Jacobsmeyer and Travelers (hereinafter referred to collectively as Jacobsmeyer) for a majority of their remaining losses associated with the accident. Jacobsmeyer subsequently sued Grove and its parent company (hereinafter referred to jointly as Manitowoc) for breach of the settlement agreement. Manitowoc filed third-party petition claims for contribution and/or indemnity against U.S. Steel, alleging that U.S. Steel's predecessor-in-interest provided the faulty steel for the crane. The trial court dismissed Manitowoc's third-party petition with prejudice because Manitowoc failed to satisfy pleading requirements where it did not admit its own liability as a joint tortfeasor in its third-party petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a party seeking contribution or indemnity need not admit its own fault in its third-party petition but rather can deny liability in its answer to the plaintiff's petition and assert in its third-party petition that if it is liable to the plaintiff, then the third-party defendant is liable to it. Remanded. View "Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am. v. Manitowoc Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Whelan Security Company appealed a trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Charles Kennebrew and W. Landon Morgan on its action to enforce the non-compete agreements it had with Kennebrew and Morgan. On appeal, Whelan claimed that the trial court erred in concluding that the non-competition and non-solicitation clauses were invalid as overbroad and unreasonable as to time and space. The Supreme Court granted transfer and reversed, holding that the non-compete agreements were unreasonable as written but modified the terms of the agreements to give effect to the intent of the parties in entering the non-compete agreement; and (2) because genuine factual issues existed, entry of summary judgment was improper. Remanded. View "Whelan Security Co. v. Kennebrew" on Justia Law