Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In 1998, 52 U.S. states and territories entered into the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco manufacturers (PMs), which released the PMs from tobacco-related consumer protection and product liability lawsuits in return for the PMs’ agreement to make annual payments to the states in perpetuity. This dispute concerned the application of the Non-Participating Manufacturer Adjustment (NPM Adjustment), a provision in the MSA that reduces the amount the PMs must pay to states that failed diligently to enforce certain legislation during a relevant year. PMs, Missouri, and other states arbitrated the dispute. More than twenty states and the PMs entered into a partial settlement agreement, but Missouri and other states did not join the settlement. The arbitration panel found that Missouri was not diligent in enforcing its legislative enactment and that the NPM Adjustment applied. Missouri sought relief. The trial court overruled Missouri’s motion to compel the PMS to engage in a single-state arbitration with Missouri over another dispute regarding application of the NPM Adjustment in a subsequent year but modified the award as requested by Missouri. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court correctly refused to compel single-state arbitration; and (2) the trial court did not err in modifying the panel’s award. View "State ex rel. Greitens v. American Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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In 2013, TracFone Wireless, Inc. sought refunds of the difference between the sales tax it paid on its sales to Missouri residents and the use tax it believes it should have paid, arguing that it qualified for the “in commerce” exemption from sales tax set out in section 144.030.1. The Director of Revenue denied the requested refunds. The Administrative Hearing Commission upheld the decision, finding that TracFone’s sales were subject to sales tax under Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.020.1(4) and that TracFone was not entitled to claim the “in commerce” sales tax exemption because the true object of the transactions was the sale of access to telecommunications services in Missouri, and the equipment was merely incidental to the sale of access to those services in Missouri. TracFone filed a petition for review, asserting that, while the sales at issue may be retail sales under section 144.020.1, they qualified for the “in commerce” exemption set out in section 144.030.1. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the transactions at issue did not qualify for the exemption set out in section 144.030.1 for sales “in commerce” between states. View "TracFone Wireless, Inc. v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The court quashed its preliminary writ of prohibition to consider relator's claim that the new rule of evidence set forth in the 2014 amendment to article I, section 18(c) of the Missouri Constitution could not be applied in his upcoming trial because the crimes with which he is charged occurred before the effective date of that constitutional amendment. The court held that article I, section 18(c) applies to all trials occurring on or after the effective date of the amendment, regardless of when the crimes are alleged to have occurred; claims that the trial court applied this new rule of evidence improperly, or that a proper application of this rule nevertheless violates the defendant’s substantive rights under the state or federal constitutions, are not before the court in this proceeding; and such objections must be properly raised and preserved during trial and properly presented on appeal if the defendant is convicted. View "State ex rel. Kendrick Tipler v. The Honorable Michael Gardner" on Justia Law
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The Commission determined that Charles and Mary Harter improperly calculated their income eligibility for purposes of the Property Tax Credit (PTC), under sections 135.010 to 135.035 of RSMO Supp., and found that the entire amount of Mr. Harter's social security and annuity payments should be included in their “income” for PTC purposes under section 135.010(5). The Harters seek judicial review of the Commission's finding that the Harters were eligible only for a reduced PTC for the 2010 tax year under section 135.030.2 and that they were not eligible for any PTC for the years 2011-13 because their income exceeded the “maximum upper limit” of income eligibility under section 135.030.1(1). The court concluded that the Commission properly determined the Harters' PTC where the Harters met the disability eligibility criterion and the Commission properly calculated the Harters' "income" for PTC purposes. The court also concluded that the Commission did not err in refusing to estop the Director, and the Commission did not err in granting summary decision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Harter v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law
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At issue in this case was a proposed ordinance establishing a minimum wage for Kansas City. The City of Kansas City filed an action seeking to have the trial court order the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners and other election authorities serving the City to remove from the November 3, 2015 ballot the proposed ordinance, arguing that, if enacted, the ordinance would conflict with Mo. Rev. Stat. 285.055. Several individuals (collectively, the Committee), who proposed the ordinance using the initiative petition provisions of the Kansas City Charter, intervened in the City’s action, arguing that the proposal should remain on the ballot. The trial court entered judgment for the City and ordered that the measure be removed, concluding that the proposed ordinance was inconsistent with section 285.055. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims of the City and the Committee were premature. View "City of Kansas City v. Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners" on Justia Law

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After a court-tried criminal trial, Defendant was found guilty of possession of a chemical with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance. Defendant appealed, arguing that the State did not present sufficient evidence that he possessed pseudoephedrine at the time detectives searched his residence. The evidence established that Defendant actually possessed pseudoephedrine on the date of the offense, despite the fact that no pseudoephedrine was found at Defendant’s residence at the time the detectives conducted their search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a reasonable inference drawn from the circumstances of this case is that Defendant actually possessed pseudoephedrine on the date of the offense. View "State v. Twitty" on Justia Law
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A juvenile officer filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father, who was in prison, and Mother. After a trial, the circuit court entered a judgment terminating both parents’ parental rights. The court found that termination was in the best interest of Child and, with respect to Father, found three separate grounds for termination, including the ground that Father was unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 211.447.5(6)(a). On appeal, Father challenged, among other things, the constitutional validity of section 211.447.5(6)(a). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 211.447.5(6)(a) is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Father’s case; (2) the circuit court’s findings were supported by substantial evidence and were not against the weight of the evidence; and (3) Father’s challenges to the circuit court’s procedural rulings were unavailing. View "In re Interest of J.P.B." on Justia Law

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The director of the Missouri State Public Defender System filed a complaint against the Honorable Christina Kunza Mennemeyer (Respondent), alleging, inter alia, a judicial practice of deliberately postponing the appointment of counsel to indigent defendant in probation violation cases for the overt reason of preventing the public defender from disqualifying her. The Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline found serious violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as misconduct under article V, section 24 of the Missouri Constitution, and sought discipline against Respondent. The Supreme Court held that the evidence supported each of the charges brought against Respondent and accepted the recommendation of the Commission. The Court then suspended Respondent, without pay, for a period for six months. View "In re Honorable Christina Kunza Mennemeyer" on Justia Law
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Franklin Allen obtained a $16 million personal injury award against Wayne Bryers after Bryers’ handgun discharged, seriously injuring Allen. Thereafter, Allan filed a Mo. R. Civ. P. 90 garnishment action seeking proceeds from an insurance policy issued by Atain Specialty Insurance Company (Insurer), which insured the premises where the shooting occurred. Allen alleged that Insurer wrongfully refused to defend Bryers and acted in bad faith when it refused to defend Bryers. The garnishment court ordered Insurer to pay Allen $16 million. Insurer appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the circuit court erred in denying its motions to intervene and to set aside the underlying tort judgment on the basis of fraud. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in part and affirmed as modified the remainder of the garnishment court’s judgment, holding (1) the garnishment court’s rulings on Insurer’s motions to intervene and to set aside the judgment were void; (2) Insurer wrongfully refused to defend Bryers and was bound by the result of the underlying tort action, including the findings related to coverage; but (3) the garnishment court exceeded its authority in awarding Allen the full amount of the underlying tort judgment because Allen was only entitled to receive the $1 million policy limit from Insurer. View "Allen v. Bryers" on Justia Law
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The State Board of Nursing entered a disciplinary order imposing discipline on the nursing license of Karen Carpenter, including a three-year probationary period with numerous conditions and restrictions. The circuit court reduced the probationary period to one year and eliminated almost all conditions and restrictions imposed by the Board, concluding that the Board’s disciplinary order was arbitrary, unreasonable, and excessive. The circuit court then rejected Carpenter’s motion for attorney’s fees, concluding that Carpenter was not a “prevailing party” because she was still subject to discipline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Carpenter “prevailed” when she petitioned, successfully, to have the probationary period on her license reduced to one year and to eliminate almost all of the conditions and restrictions imposed by the Board; but (2) Carpenter was not entitled to attorney’s fees under Mo. Rev. Stat. 536.087.1 because the Board did not take a position as to the discipline to be imposed on Carpenter’s license. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law