This Week in the Missouri Supreme Court: Week of October 2, 2017

By Michael Layer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – The Missouri Supreme Court issued hand downs for four cases and seven attorney discipline cases.

In Robert Hurst v. Nissan North America Inc., Nissan’s Infinity FX35 and FX45 had defective dashboards; they were affected by heat and humidity and would “bubble.” Nissan received complaints from its customers and the company replaced the defective dashboards and changed dashboard suppliers. Even despite changing suppliers, the dashboards continued “bubbling.” When Nissan extended their warranty and continued to replace dashboards, a class of plaintiffs sued Nissan for false advertising, alleging that the dashboard problems no longer constitute the Infinity FX 35 or FX45 as “premium” or “luxury’ cars.

A jury awarded the each plaintiff $2,000 in damages, denied Nissan’s motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict. After the claims process, the circuit court determined that even though the plaintiffs received replacement dashboards that did not “bubble,” they entered judgment against Nissan for nearly $2 million in attorney fees and over $650,000 in damages- which Nissan appealed.

The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the circuit court decision because the plaintiffs could not prove that the dashboards were made with substandard products. If the plaintiffs could prove that they were made with low-end, economy, or standard materials, then the court could believe that other parts of the vehicle were not made with luxury or premium parts.

In S.S.S., L.W.V., & M.T.S.-V v. C.V.S., a biological father appeals to assert his parental rights over his daughter. The child’s biological mother married another man and the two of them have been taking care of the child since 2013. In 2014, the couple filed a petition to allow the child’s stepfather to legally adopt her. The guardian ad litem filed a reported noting that the child wanted to be adopted by the stepfather. The circuit court found multiple statutory grounds for terminating the biological father’s parental rights and approved the stepfather adoption of the child, which the biological father appeals.

In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court affirms the circuit court’s judgment. According to W. Brent Powell, there is enough evidence to suggest that the biological father abandoned and neglected to care for the child and thus the court should terminate his rights. However, Judge Patricia Breckenridge disagrees and finds that there is not enough evidence to suggest that he abandoned and neglected her and feels that the court should reverse the decision because of the lack of sufficient evidence.

In T.T.G. & S.S.G., W.J.K. & C.A.C.K. v. K.S.G. &G.H. et. al., a mother appeals to assert her maternal rights over her twin girls. When the children were put into foster care just after birth, the foster parents petitioned to adopt them. The circuit court terminated the biological mother’s parental rights because they found enough evidence to establish that she had neglected the children under many statutory provisions. The court also found that she had neglected or abandoned the twins six months before filing a petition- which the mother appeals. The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously affirms the circuit court’s decision. The Court finds that there was sufficiently convincing evidence of parental neglect under statute.

In SC96159: the State ex rel. Stephanie Windeknecht v. Angela Mesmer; SC96160: State ex rel. Joshua Holman v. Jennifer Sachse;  SC96165: State ex rel.Summer Robinson v. Angela Mesmer; and SC96187: State ex rel. Scarlett R.Adams v. Angela Mesmer; the four defendants pleaded guilty for stealing at least $500 worth of property. However, when the Missouri Supreme Court made its decision in State v Bazell – which determined that that stealing cannot be enhanced to a felony. The defendants sought relief from the circuit court contending that their sentences should not be longer than a year, the maximum for a misdemeanor.

The Missouri Supreme Court denied their habeas relief saying that the Bazell decision only affects cases from 2016 forward and does not apply retroactively.

The Missouri Supreme Court disbarred Columbia attorney Ronald Barlett, Arizona attorney Larry Busch, and St. Louis attorney Shannon Cashion for professional misconduct. The Missouri Supreme court suspended the law license of Illinois attorney Edward Dorsey for failing to safely keep property of his client or a third party and professional misconduct, Florissant attorney Timothy Gilmore for failing to give an answer required in a timely manner, and Springfield attorney Rita Sanders.

The Missouri Supreme Court also reinstated the law license of Kansas attorney Robert Mintz.

This story originally appeared on The Missouri Times.

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