Civil Practice and Procedure

Jennifer Artman, Esquire

Trial court exceeded the scope of the appellate court’s mandate when it allowed defendant to present evidence that a non-party would have to pay punitive damages award and used the non-party’s historical corporate citizenship to mitigate the award. Lincoln Smith, et al. v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., No. 71918 (Mo. App. W.D., October 2, 2012), Ellis, J.

Plaintiffs appealed a punitive damages award entered following a retrial of damages, which was previously ordered by the Western District in Smith v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 275 S.W.3d 748 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008). During the retrial on punitive damages, B&W presented evidence that was not introduced during the original trial: B&W presented evidence that any punitive damages award would actually be paid by non-party R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company because the non-party had acquired part of B&W. B&W also introduced evidence of the non-party’s historical corporate citizenship. Plaintiffs claimed this evidence exceeded the scope of the Western District’s mandate ordering a retrial on the issue of punitive damages.

Reversed and remanded for another retrial on the issue of punitive damages. The court found B&W exceeded the scope of the court’s prior mandate, which requires complete identity of the defendant in both phases of a bifurcated damages trial, by presenting evidence of a non-party’s fiscal responsibility in the second phase. Allowing this evidence permitted B&W to “effectively substitute defendants” and argue that the non-party should not be required to pay punitive damages.

Dissenting Opinion:
Judge Alok Ahuja, joined by two other judges, would affirm. He finds that the trial court complied with the mandate because the only defendant the jury actually assessed punitive damages against was B&W. Further, there is no legal construct regarding “effective substitution” of another party, as the majority finds. 

When evidence presented at a hearing on a motion to enforce a settlement is stipulated to by the parties, the hearing is an evidentiary hearing and the resulting judgment is neither a judgment on the pleadings nor a summary judgment. Grant v. Sears, No. 74864 (Mo. App. W.D., September 25, 2012), Martin, J.

Angela Grant appealed a trial court judgment sustaining James Sears’ motion to enforce a settlement agreement. In the trial court’s hearing on the motion, Sears and Grant stipulated to the evidence presented, which was outside of the pleadings, and the trial court stated it would “take the evidence” presented at the hearing in making the ruling on the motion. The trial court’s written judgment, though, stated it had granted judgment on the pleadings when it sustained Sears’ motion.

The three ways for a trial court to determine a motion to enforce a settlement agreement are: (1) to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the disputed facts and then enter judgment after taking evidence; (2) dispose of the motion on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 55.27, using no evidence other than the pleadings; or (3) dispose of the motion by summary judgment pursuant to Rule 74.04.

Reversed. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing in response to the motion, and the evidence taken at the hearing was admitted by stipulation. The judgment entered following an evidentiary hearing with stipulated evidence is a court-tried disposition on the merits, not a judgment on the pleadings or a summary judgment. After addressing the substantive points on appeal, the court reversed.

A partial summary judgment is not a final judgment to be appealed, even if the trial court states that it is, if it leaves legal issues or remedies remaining to be decided. The Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention v. Missouri Baptist Foundation, No. 74051 (Mo. App. W.D., September 18, 2012), Newton, J.

The Foundation, the trust services agency of the Convention, is required to submit any charter amendments to the Board of the Convention for approval. In this action, the Board alleged in three separate counts that the Foundation tried to execute two sets of amendments without seeking Board approval. The trial court granted the Board’s motion for partial summary judgment on one of the counts, leaving the other two remaining. The trial court stated that the judgment as to the count was “final,” but it ordered further proceedings on the relief requested in the count. Rule 74.01 permits an appeal from a partial judgment if the trial court expressly determines that there is no reason for delay. The Foundation appealed.

Held: Dismissed.
The trial court erred in entering partial summary judgment and declaring the order immediately appealable because (1) the trial court did not resolve all the legal issues or remedies between the Foundation and the Board as to this claim; (2) the claim was not a “distinct judicial unit” because the remaining two counts arose out of the same facts, occurrences, and transactions; and (3) the trial court’s language, stating that there was unresolved issues of relief, clearly demonstrates that the judgment was not final. Because only a final judgment is appealable, and this judgment is not final, the appeal must be dismissed.