Missouri Civil Procedure Achtenberg Spring 2015
DeCormier v. Harley Davidson Motor Company Group, Inc. (Summary judgment)
Summary judgment is appropriate only when the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine dispute about material facts and, under the undisputed facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
One way a defending party may establish a right to summary judgment is to show there is no genuine dispute as to the existence of each of the facts necessary to support a properly pleaded affirmative defense.
“Facts set forth by affidavit or otherwise in support of a party’s motion are taken as true unless contradicted by the non-moving party’s response to the summary judgment motion.
The non-moving party’s “denial may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the party’s pleading. Rather, the response shall support each denial with specific references to the discovery, exhibits or affidavits that demonstrate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial
The non-moving party must attach to its response copies of all discovery, exhibits, or affidavits on which the non-moving party relies
This Court’s review of summary judgment is de novo
The purpose of summary judgment is to move the parties beyond the bare allegations in their pleadings
A party cannot rely on its own petition to provide the necessary evidentiary support for additional facts alleged in response to a summary judgment motion.
Standard of Review
What standard do you apply and what standard you apply (how you apply it)?
Abuse of Discretion
abuse of discretion- fact intensive and/or it involves the
chances of winning on an abuse of discretion appeal is very, very low
its doesn’t matter that the court of appeals disagrees with the trial court, its that most reasonable judges would disagree and it was very unreasonable for the trial court to make that decision
balancing/consideration of a bunch of factors
Anglim v. Missouri Pacific Railroad (Forum non conveniens/abuse of discretion)
The doctrine of forum non conveniens provides that notwithstanding proper jurisdiction and venue by the letter of the statute, a trial judge has discretion to not exercise jurisdiction if the forum is seriously inconvenient for the trial of the action involved and if a more appropriate forum is available to the plaintiff.
The doctrine is designed to prevent a plaintiff from using a liberal venue statute to vex, oppress or harass a defendant by bringing a suit in a forum unrelated to the parties or cause of action. But a plaintiff’s choice of forum is not to be disturbed except for “weighty reasons” and the case should be dismissed only if the “balance is strongly in favor” of the defendant.
at least six factors were identified that trial courts were to use as a guide in exercising their discretion to apply the doctrine of forum non conveniens:
place of accrual of the cause of action,
location of witnesses,
the residence of the parties,
any nexus with the place of suit,
he public factor of the convenience to and burden upon the court, and
the availability to plaintiff of another court with jurisdiction of the cause of action affording a forum for plaintiff’s remedy.
Because the application of the doctrine of forum non conveniens is fact intensive and the weight to be accorded any factor is dependent on the circumstances, trial court discretion is essential. Nevertheless, discretion is not the equivalent of whim; discretion must be applied with control
On appeal, in determining whether the trial court’s ruling amounted to an abuse of discretion, only those facts will be considered that were before the trial court when it ruled on the motion to dismiss, and the evidence will be viewed in a light favorable to the result of the trial court. Also on appeal, discretionary rulings are presumed correct, and the appellant bears the burden of showing an abuse of discretion.
Judicial discretion is abused when the trial court’s ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances then before the court and is so arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration; if reasonable persons can differ about the propriety of the action taken by the trial court, then it cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion.
In the context of an appeal from an order overruling a motion to dismiss based on a claim of inconvenient forum, the decision of the trial court is not to be disturbed unless the appellate court is firmly convinced of two propositions.
First, the appellate court must be convinced that the relevant factors weigh heavily in favor of applying the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
Second, the court must be convinced that permitting the case to be tried in Missouri would lead to an injustice because such trial would be oppressive to the defendant or impose an undue burden on Missouri courts.
The mere fact that more witnesses are located in another state than are located in Missouri does not conclusively establish the question of witness location favorably to the defendant.
Reserving a trial court’s ruling on appeal requires more than a showing that the motion could have been sustained.
forum non convinens has no intra state, county to county, application
Newton v. Ford Motor Co.
The determination of prejudice rests largely within the discretion of the trial court as the referee at the scene of the contest. There are cases, however, where a replay of the scene, in an appellate court far removed from the heat of the contest, shows that the error was, indeed, prejudicial. When evidence admitted during trial is excluded from being discussed in final argument, an appellate court presumes that the exclusion was prejudicial. This later appellate review also is influenced by whether the party benefiting from the trial court’s mistake leaves well enough alone or uses the mistake to its advantage.
Murphy v. Carron
“[In judge tried cases,] the decree or judgment of the trial court will be sustained by the appellate court unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, unless it is against the weight of the evidence, unless it erroneously declares the law, or unless it erroneously applies the law. Appellate courts should exercise the power to set aside a decree or judgment on the ground that it is “against the weight of the evidence” with caution and with a firm belief that the decree r judgment is wrong
No substantial evidence to support the judgment.
substantial evidence- “that which, if true, has probative force upon the issues, and from which the trier of facts can reasonably decide the case.”
The appellate court will view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party who prevailed below, disregard contrary evidence, and draw all reasonable inferences favorable to the prevailing party.
Judgment is against the weight of the evidence
appellate courts will very rarely reverse a trial court judgment on the basis that it was against the weight of the evidence, doing so only when the appellate court has a “firm belief” that the judgment was wrong. In determining the weight of the evidence, the court looks to its probative value rather than the quantity of evidence.
The appellate court should give particular deference to the trial court when the case involves questions of the credibility of witnesses.
The court erroneously declared the law
The court reviews de novo, giving no deference to the trial court.
The Court erroneously applied the law
The court reviews de novo, giving no deference to the trial court.
Ivie v. Smith
On review of a court-tried case, an appellate court will affirm the circuit court’s judgment unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares
e, or it erroneously declares or applies the law.”
Finally, appellate courts are “primarily concerned with the correctness of the trial court’s result, not the route taken by the trial court to reach that result.” To that end, the judgment must be “affirmed if cognizable under any theory, regardless of whether the reasons advanced by the trial court are wrong or not sufficient.”
The appellate court decides the case without giving any deference to the trial judge.
When an appellate court reviews an issue de novo, it reviews it under the same standard used by the trial judge.
But the trial judge’s standard varies depending on the type of ruling he or she is asked to make. (i.e. Summary judgment, motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim)
the appellate court—acting as if it were the trial court—applies different standards when reviewing rulings on different motions.
An appellate court does not directly review a jury’s verdict but instead reviews the trial judge’s failure to grant the losing party’s motion for directed verdict and motion for JNOV. In doing so, it is deciding a legal question – whether the winning party made a submissible case – but that legal question is resolved only after giving the jury every benefit of the doubt.
Both the trial court and the appellate court must view “the evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict, disregarding evidence to the contrary
Many trial judge decisions involve fact finding, discretion, and pure legal issues. Faced with such a situation, the appellate court needs to disaggregate the decision and apply the correct standard of appellate review to each aspect of it.
State v. Walkup
Courts in this state frequently say that the admissibility of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court. That is true, in many instances, but is not accurate where an evidentiary principle or rule is violated, especially in criminal cases.
To be admissible, evidence must be relevant. On questions of relevance, the trial court certainly has discretion, but its discretion is bounded by the principle that the court’s rulings will be overturned if they are clearly against the logic of the circumstances. Evidentiary decisions of the trial court as to relevance are reviewed, in the context of the whole trial, to ascertain whether the defendant received a fair trial.
Beyond questions of relevance, even where a particular evidentiary ruling is in error, appellate courts review evidentiary errors to ascertain whether they were prejudicial, that is, whether the errors are more likely than not to have affected the outcome.
When it comes to applying evidentiary principles or rules, the erroneous exclusion of evidence in a criminal case creates a rebuttable presumption of prejudice. The state may rebut this presumption by proving that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Trial court error in the admission of evidence is prejudicial if the error “so influenced the jury that, when considered with and balanced against all of the evidence properly admitted, there is a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different conclusion without the error.