Monday, November 24, 2014

Johnson v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.

Opinion issued
October 7, 2014

Link to Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion

Johnson, a security guard, filed an age discrimination claim against employer, Securitas Security Services (Securitas), after he was fired for leaving a shift early after he collided with a parked semi-trailer while driving a Securitas vehicle.  Previously, a Securitas manager had made age-related comments to and about Johnson, recommending retirement or a lessened workload.  The district court granted summary judgment for Securitas, concluding Johnson failed to submit sufficient evidence to raise questions of material fact on a necessary element of the prima facie case of age discrimination, and, alternatively, that there was failure to raise a genuine question of material fact regarding Securitas's reasons being merely pretext for age discrimination.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held there was sufficient evidence to raise a genuine question of material fact regarding the initial prima facie necessary element of the claim, but that there was not sufficient evidence submitted to raise a genuine question of material fact regarding Securitas's stated reasons for dismissal of Johnson being a pretext for age discrimination, thus affirming the district court's holding for summary judgment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

United States v. Ronnie Whisenton

Opinion issued
September 2, 2014

Link to Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion

In United States of America v. Ronnie Whisenton, the Eighth Circuit considered whether law enforcement impermissibly violated the Fourth Amendment when they gained consent to search Mr. Whisenton’s house after a warrantless entry.[i]  The Eighth Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Missouri’s denial of Mr. Whisenton’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search of his house.[ii]   His conviction and sentence of 60 months imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute marijuana was upheld.[iii]

Conway v. CitiMortgage, Inc.

Opinion issued
August 19, 2014

Link to the Supreme Court of Missouri Opinion

Davis Conway and Sheri Conway (collectively, Homeowners) challenged the Circuit County of St. Charles County’s dismissal of their homeowner’s suit under the Missouri Merchandising Practice Act (MMPA). The Homeowners, on appeal, argued that although Fannie Mae and CitiMortgage were not parties to the original loan transaction, they were still liable for misconduct that occurred in connection with the loan transaction. The Supreme Court of Missouri agreed with the homeowners and reversed the Circuit Court’s dismissal.   In so holding, the Court emphasized that the MMPA prohibits the use of certain deceptive practices if there is a relationship between the sale and the alleged unlawful action.  It further stated that the unlawful action may occur by any person at any time before, during or after the sale.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

State ex rel. Middleton v. Russell

Opinion issued
July 16, 2014

Link to Supreme Court of Missouri Opinion

On July 16, 2014, after 20 years and at least three stays of execution, a sharply divided Missouri Supreme Court issued a brief opinion rejecting John C. Middleton’s final attempt to evade the death penalty.[i]  Following two initially successful but eventually fruitless attempts to bypass the state’s Supreme Court by imploring the federal district court for the Eastern District of Missouri to stay his execution,[ii] on July 16 Middleton filed a writ of habeas corpus asserting that under the Eight Amendment he lacked the mental competence which the constitution requires for an inmate to be executed.[iii]  Relying on the United States Supreme Court’s Panetti v. Quarterman[iv] and Ford v. Wainwright[v] decisions, the majority held that Middleton had fallen well short of establishing that he was suffering from the sort of gross psychotic delusions that might have presented a constitutional bar to his execution.[vi]  The dissent, on the other hand, written by Justice Draper, and concurred in by Justices Stith and Teitelmann, strongly criticized what it perceived to be the gross violation of Middleton’s right to due process.[vii]  Justice Draper’s dissenting opinion insisted that the same psychiatric report viewed as inadequate by the majority was a sufficient predicate for establishing a threshold showing of incompetence.  Further, the dissent argued that Middleton had raised substantial unanswered concerns regarding the constitutionality of RSMo § 552.060, which governs the procedure for determining whether a condemned prisoner is competent to be executed.[viii] 

State v. Jackson

Opinion issued
June 24, 2014

Link to Supreme Court of Missouri Opinion

Denford Jackson was convicted by a jury of first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.[i] Jackson requested that the instruction for the lesser included offense of second degree robbery also be included in the instructions given to the jury pursuant to Section 556.046 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.[ii] The trial court refused to give the instruction, holding there was no basis in the evidence for a reasonable juror to determine that the victim did not reasonably believe that Jackson held a gun to her back.[iii]  On appeal from the Circuit court of the City of St. Louis, the Supreme Court of Missouri reversed and remanded the case, holding that a jury member can always disbelieve all or any part of the evidence and so evidence never proves any element until a jury says it does.[iv]  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Templemire v. W&M Welding, Inc.

Opinion issued
April 15, 2014 and modified on Court's own Motion May 27, 2014

Link to Supreme Court of Missouri Opinion

In Templemire v. W&M Welding, Inc., Plaintiff John Templemire filed suit against his former employer, W&M Welding, alleging he was discharged in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.[i]  The Pettis County Circuit Court entered judgment in favor of W&M Welding.  The Supreme Court of Missouri overruled the Circuit Court and held that to make a submissible retaliatory discharge claim within RSMo § 287.780, “an employee must demonstrate his or her filing of a workers’ compensation claim was a ‘contributing factor’ to the employer’s discrimination or the employee’s discharge.”  Templemire is an extremely relevant opinion as the Missouri Supreme Court accepted the “contributing factor” standard over the previous “exclusive factor” standard.  

State v. Pierce

Opinion issued
June 24, 2014

Link to Supreme Court of Missouri Opinion

Bruce Pierce appealed his conviction for second-degree trafficking and resisting arrest, claiming that both charges should have been dismissed on the ground that the trial court lacked authority to retry him.[i]  In addition, Pierce claimed that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury regarding possession of a controlled substance as a lesser-included offense of second-degree trafficking.[ii]  Finally, Pierce claimed the evidence was not sufficient to support his conviction for resisting arrest.[iii]  The Court rejected the first claim finding that by choosing not to raise the deadline at his earliest opportunity, Pierce waived his claim under the retrial deadline in article I, section 19.[iv]  The Court agreed with Pierce as to his second claim, finding that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of possession of a controlled substance.[v]  As to Pierce’s third claim, the Court found that the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for resisting arrest.[vi]    

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eugene Carl De Boise, et al. v. Taser International, Inc., et al.

Opinion issued
July 28, 2014

Link to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit Opinion

Family members of Samuel De Boise brought a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against individual officers of St. Louis County and also filed an action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against St. Louis County.[i] The defendant officers each tased Samuel De Boise multiple times while attempting to apprehend him, and these actions resulted in his death.[ii] The district court granted motions for summary judgment filed by the independent officers and St. Louis County, finding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity under the facts of the case, and that the county had not violated the ADA.[iii] Plaintiffs appealed, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because their actions did not violate any clearly established right, and that St. Louis County had not violated De Boise’s rights under the ADA by failing to utilize appropriate officer training in the relevant situation.[iv] The majority opinion engendered a dissent from one justice on the issue of qualified immunity.[v]

Frye v. Levy

Opinion issued
[July 8, 2014]

Link to Missouri Supreme Court Opinion

Melody Frye (“Mother”) was the subject of a hotline tip to the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services (“Children’s Division”) alleging that she had neglected to monitor the interactions between her husband, Joseph Frye (“Frye”) and her three biological children.[i]  The Children’s Division conducted an investigation into the allegations against Mother and ultimately determined that the claims against one of the children, J.H. were substantiated and sought to add Mother’s name to the central registry.[ii]  She sought review of the Children’s Division’s decision by the Child Abuse Neglect Review Board, which ultimately affirmed the conclusion.[iii]  Timely, Mother sought judicial review and the trial court reversed the ruling, determining that the Children’s Division did not comply with the statutorily defined deadline in section 210.152.2, thus stripping the authority to make such determinations and ruled for Mother.[iv]  The Children’s Division appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri, which ultimately vacated and remanded the trial court’s decision.[v]

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mayes v. Saint Luke's Hospital of Kansas City

Opinion issued
May 27, 2014

Link to Missouri Supreme Court Opinion

Family members brought a suit against doctor and hospital for wrongful death and lost chance of recovery after the death of Mr. Mayes on March 28, 2008.  After voluntarily dismissing the first suit, the plaintiffs filed a second suit but did not file the required affidavit by a health care provider certifying merit required by RSMo 538.225.  Defendants successfully moved to dismiss for failure to comply with statutory requirements, as the statute mandated dismissal.  After dismissal, the plaintiffs brought a third suit, but the third case was dismissed because the statute of limitations had run on both claims.  Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the unconstitutionality of 538.225 for the second and third cases and that they had substantially complied with the statutory requirements in the second case.  The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the constitutional objections were not preserved in the second case, that there was no substantial compliance, and the statute of limitations was properly applied and barred the third case.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Minact, Inc. v. Director of Revenue

Opinion issued
April 15, 2014

Link to [insert court] Opinion

         The Supreme Court of Missouri recently ruled that income from a “rabbi trust” used to finance a corporation’s deferred compensation plan for executives is business income subject to taxation and apportionment.[i]  In 2007, MINACT, INC., a Mississippi corporation that does business in multiple states, including Missouri,[ii] claimed $667,773 as non-business income on its tax return, thereby exempting that income from state taxation.[iii]  However, when the Missouri Director of Revenue refused to allow this claim, MINACT appealed to the Administrative Hearing Commission. On appeal the Commission held that the income was not business income as it failed to satisfy the transactional or functional tests employed by Missouri courts in finding the existence of business income for state taxation purposes.[iv]  Subsequently, the Director of Revenue appealed the Administrative Hearing Commission’s decision.[v]  Ultimately, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Director of Revenue, finding the income met the functional test because it is used to attract and retain important employees.[vi]   Thus, the Administrative Hearing Commission’s decision was overturned and the case remanded.[vii]

Commercial Barge Line Co. and American Commercial Barge Line, LLC, n/k/a American Commercial Lines, LLC, vs. Director of Revenue

Opinion issued
April 29, 2014

Link to Missouri Supreme Court Opinion

Commercial Barge Line and American Commercial Barge Line (collectively, Taxpayers) challenged the Administrative Hearing Commission’s determination that they owed Missouri sales and use tax on goods and supplies received by their towboats while they traveled the Mississippi River.  The Taxpayers argued that the taxes assessed against them violated the Commerce Clause because they were not fairly related to any service that Missouri provides to the Taxpayers. The Supreme Court of Missouri ultimately found the Taxpayer’s argument unpersuasive and affirmed the Administrative Hearing Commission’s ruling.   In so holding, the Court emphasized that the taxes were fairly related to services that the Taxpayers received from the state and were, therefore, not in violation of the Commerce Clause.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stanley v. State[1]

Opinion handed down February 4, 2014

Travis M. Stanley was charged with two counts of failure to register as a sex offender, and eventually negotiated a plea agreement in which the prosecuting attorney agreed to recommend a lesser sentence in return for guilty pleas on both counts.[2]  The circuit court, however, was not bound by this agreement and gave Stanley the maximum sentence for each count.[3]  Stanley filed a pro se post-conviction motion, which was amended by court-appointed post-conviction counsel from the public defender’s office.[4]  Stanley’s first post-conviction counsel eventually withdrew, though, and a new attorney from the public defender’s office entered an appearance.[5]  Stanley’s new counsel filed a second amendment to the motion, which the circuit court overruled.[6]  The case was eventually transferred to the Supreme Court of Missouri, which held that: (1) the time limit for filing the second amended post-conviction motion was governed by the date Stanley’s first post-conviction counsel was appointed; (2) Stanley was not entitled to a hearing on the claim of ineffective counsel; (3) the circuit court was not obligated to make disclosures or allow Stanley to withdraw his guilty pleas; and (4) Stanley’s plea counsel was not deficient for failing to object to the sentence imposed.[7]

Central Trust & Investment Co. v. SignalPoint Asset Management, LLC [1]

Opinion handed down February 25, 2014

I.        Facts and Holding

Troy Kennedy was a director and executive officer for Springfield Trust & Investment Company (“STC”) until Central Trust and Investment Company (“Central Trust”) purchased STC on November 20, 2009.[2] When Central Trust purchased STC, Kennedy left his job and formed his own corporation, ITI Financial Management, LLC (ITI).[3] While the sale was still being negotiated, Kennedy placed a list of clients and client information in a safety deposit box.[4]  Kennedy started soliciting Central Trust’s clients, and, as of six months later, 85 of ITI’s 90 customers were former customers of Central Trust.[5]

In February of 2010, Kennedy signed an agreement with SignalPoint Asset Management, LLC (SignalPoint) to be an Independent Advisor Representative.[6] All of Kennedy’s emails go through SignalPoint, and Kennedy tells his clients he is affiliated with SignalPoint.[7] The agreement states that Kennedy is an independent contractor of SignalPoint and has no right to bind SignalPoint.[8]

Central Trust filed a petition against Kennedy, ITI, and SignalPoint alleging three claims: (1) misappropriation of trade secrets, (2) tortious interference with business relations, and (3) civil conspiracy.[9] SignalPoint filed for summary judgment for all three claims.[10]  The circuit court sustained SignalPoint’s motion, finding there was no genuine issue of material fact and that SignalPoint was entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to all three claims asserted against it.[11]  Central Trust appealed, and while the appeal was pending, dismissed the claims against Kennedy and ITI.[12]

Naylor Senior Citizens Housing, LP. ET AL. v. Dilks [1]

Opinion handed down February 25, 2014

John Dilks (“Dilks”) filed a pro se petition on behalf of himself, Naylor Senior Citizens Housing, LP and Naylor Senior Citizens Housing II, LP (collectively “Partnerships”) to recover damages from construction companies for harm he suffered as a result of a flood on September 22, 2006. [2] Dilks’ signature was the only one present on the original petition.[3] Sides Construction Company, Inc. and Schulz Engineering Services, Inc. (collectively “Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss on October 29, 2011 claiming Dilks lacked standing to assert claims on behalf of the Partnerships because he was not a licensed attorney.[4] In response, Dilks filed a “Reply to Motions to Dismiss” arguing the original petition was effective regardless of Dilks’ improper conduct in signing and filing it on behalf the Partnerships; the Partnerships should be given reasonable time to file an amended petition; and Dilks had standing to assert his own claims because his damages were separate  and distinct from the Partnership’s damages. [5] The trial court agreed with Defendants and dismissed the claims Dilks brought on behalf of the Partnerships because Dilks was not a licensed attorney and the original petition had no legal effect. [6] Dilks hired counsel, and on March 30, 2012, filed a motion on behalf of the Partnerships requesting that the trial court reconsider its March 7 order dismissing the Partnerships’ claims in the original petition or at least certify it for immediate appeal under rule 74.01(b). [7] The trial court denied the motion to reconsider, but made the findings required for immediate appeal on May 2, 2012. [8] The Missouri Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction under Mo. Const. art. V, § 10 and the trial court’s judgment was affirmed. [9]

Nevils v. Group Health Plan, Inc. [i]

Opinion handed down February 4, 2014

Jodie Nevils, a federal government employee, was injured in an automobile accident. Group Health Plan (“GHP”), under contract with the federal Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”), was Nevils’ insurer. After Nevils recovered a personal injury settlement from the individual responsible for the accident, GHP asserted a lien against the recovery because its contract with OPM directed it to do so. Section 5 of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act (“FEHBA” or ‘the Act”) provides that the terms of any insurance contract made under the act supersede or preempt contrary state or local law. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the term in GHP’s contract with Nevils providing GHP with a right to subrogation did not overcome Missouri law prohibiting such subrogation. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thomas A. Schweich v. Jeremiah W. Nixon [1]

Opinion handed down October 1, 2013

Thomas A. Schweich, the Missouri State Auditor, filed a declaratory judgment action to challenge Missouri State Governor Jeremiah W. Nixon’s announcement to withhold funds from the 2012 fiscal year (“FY 2012”) state budget for the Missouri legislature, the Supreme Court of Missouri, and the office of the Auditor.[2] The trial court held that the Governor had complete discretion to withhold or reduce expenditures provided that actual revenues were less than the estimated revenues at any time until the final day of the fiscal year.[3] However, the Governor was not authorized to increase appropriations based on an “estimated” designation on the line item.[4] After review, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the Auditor did not have standing to seek declaratory judgment and the issue was ripe for review.[5] Accordingly, the action was dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 84.14.[6]

Darryl Burton v. St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners [i]

Opinion handed down September 24, 2013

In March, 1985, Darryl Burton was convicted for the murder of Donald Ball and sentenced to 75 years in prison.Twenty-four years later, a Missouri trial court found that Burton’s trial had been fundamentally unfair and ordered his release. Following his release, Burton brought this action against several police officers involved in his arrest and conviction and the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners. Burton claimed that the officers had violated his Sixth Amendment right to fair trial, Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged that the officers had recklessly or intentionally manipulated exculpatory evidence, used impermissibly suggestive identification procedures, conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights, and brought his claim against the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners based on an allegation that these violations were due to improper customs and policies of the board. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants based on qualified immunity, finding that Burton had created no genuine issues of material fact regarding his claims. The Eighth Circuit, reviewing the decision de novo, affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. This outcome is consistent with the case law requiring evidence of bad faith in order to impose liability on law enforcement officers.

Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc. v. Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control [1]

Opinion handed down September 25, 2013

A subsidiary of Southern Wine and Spirits of America (“SWSA”) applied for a license for wholesale distribution of liquor with the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control of the Missouri Department of Public Safety (“the Division”). The application was denied because Missouri law requires a liquor wholesaler to meet certain residency requirements and SWSA, a Florida corporation, could not satisfy these requirements. SWSA sued, arguing that the residency requirement violated the Commerce Clause because its purpose is simply to discriminate against out-of-state commerce while insulating in-state enterprises against competition. The Division responded by arguing that Section 2 of the Twenty-first Amendment grants states greater power to regulate alcohol distribution than normally allowed under the Commerce Clause. After considering the interaction between the Commerce Clause and the Twenty-First Amendment and reviewing the Supreme Court of the United States’ decisions on the subject, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals held that the residency requirement was constitutional.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adair v. ConAgra Foods, Inc.[1]

Opinion handed down August 30, 2013
Link to Eighth Circuit Opinion

Laborers brought a suit against their employer, ConAgra Foods, Inc., alleging that ConAgra violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to compensate them and others similarly situated for time spent walking between changing stations where they put on and remove their uniforms and the time clock where they punch in and out for the day. When the district court granted summary judgment in favor of ConAgra on the issue of whether the time spent changing clothes was lawfully excluded under 29 U.S.C.A. § 203(o) but denied ConAgra’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether time spent walking between changing stations and the time clock was lawfully excluded, the parties filed a joint motion to certify the second issue for interlocutory appeal. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings.