Missouri Supreme Court to consider appeal in multimillion-dollar Clayton Oil Company case

The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 6 will consider wether or not to grant a Clayton-based oil company an appeal over a multi-million dollar judgement awarded in June 2015.

According to court documents, a St. Louis County jury decided against Apex Oil Inc. owner Tony Novelly in a case involving profit distributions at a Clayton high-rise at 8182 Maryland Ave. The jury awarded Novelly’s business partners a total of $5.6 million, half of which was punitive damages.

The decision has since been appealed by Apex and will now go before the Missouri Supreme Court.

In September 2005, one of the limited partners sent a letter telling Apex he wished to exercise forced sale rights under a clause of the partnership agreement. Other limited partners later requested a similar buyout. Apex declined, telling the limited partners such a buyout was inconsistent with the partnership agreement.

Following earlier litigation, several limited partners sued Apex in December 2010, alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Specifically, they alleged Apex failed to make certain cash distributions and failed to comply with a forced sale provision of the partnership agreement.

The plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit that the Clayton Financial Center was making an annual net profit of more than $2.1 million for the past five years but that those funds were not distributed to the partners. It also said that Apex in 1999 took real estate worth more than $4 million and owned by the partnership, at 8235 Forsyth Blvd., and gave it to another entity, Forsyth Centre Associates, headed by Novelly. They sought $31 million in punitive damages.

Following a June 2015 trial, the jury found in favor of the limited partners on their breach of contract claim, awarding them  approximately $2.8 million. The jury also found in favor of the limited partners on their fiduciary duty claim, awarding them $1,000 each in actual damages plus a total of $2.8 million in punitive damages. The circuit court entered judgment accordingly.

The limited partners subsequently moved for a contract-based award of attorney fees and costs, and the circuit court awarded them approximately $313,000 in fees and costs. Apex appealed the decision.

An attorney for Apex Clayton Inc. said at the time of the ruling that they disagreed with the verdict and would appeal. The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District said in April  that Apex Clayton “failed to file a timely notice of appeal from the Judgment,” and dismissed the appeal.

The Missouri Supreme Court will now weigh whether Apex filed its appeal on time and which circuit court judgment constituted the final judgment triggering the time for filing an appeal.

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