Dynasty Home, L.C. v. Pub. Water Supply Dist. No. 3 of Franklin Cnty.

Decision Date03 February 2015
Docket NumberNo. ED 100993,ED 100993
PartiesDynasty Home, L.C., Appellant, v. Public Water Supply District Number 3 of Franklin County, Missouri, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

FOR APPELLANT Benjamin J. Hotz, 216 E. Locust, Union, MO 63084

FOR RESPONDENT Mark C. Piontek, 1200 Jefferson, Washington, MO 63090, Jacqueline K. Graves, 600 Washington Ave., Ste. 2500, St. Louis, MO 63101



Dynasty Home, L.C. (Dynasty) appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Public Water Supply District No. 3 of Franklin County, Missouri (“the District”) on Dynasty's claim for inverse condemnation. We affirm.


Dynasty, a Missouri limited liability company, is the owner and landlord of residential rental properties in a subdivision in Franklin County, Missouri. The District is a public water supply district1 that supplies water and sewer service to the premises of the subdivision. While the District will open new accounts for water or sewer service in the name of Dynasty or in the name of the tenant, Dynasty requires its tenants to procure service with the District in their own names.

The District has published rules and regulations governing the terms of its service pursuant to section 247.050(17) RSMo Supp.2008.2 In accordance with these rules and regulations, customers are billed on the 24th of each month for that month's service. The monthly billing invoice reads that the balance on the account is due twenty days after the billing date. If the balance is not paid within twenty days, the account is considered delinquent, and a late fee of ten percent is added to the balance. If the customer does not pay the past due amount and the late fee within forty-five days of the original bill, the account becomes subject to discontinuation of service.

On a monthly basis, the District sends correspondence to subdivision tenants who are delinquent in payments for their water and sewer accounts. The correspondence advises that the delinquencies must be paid within a certain time to avoid disconnection of service. Pursuant to section 250.140.2 RSMo Supp.2006,3 when a tenant is delinquent in payment for services by thirty days, the District is also required to notify Dynasty of the delinquency. The District only discontinues services when accounts are delinquent by forty-five days or at the request of the tenant. When a tenant's service is discontinued for nonpayment, the District requires the property owner, Dynasty, to pay up to ninety days of charges and late penalties assessed to the account, pursuant to section 250.140.2.

Beginning July 2008, Dynasty has requested the District terminate service to the listed tenants whose accounts are delinquent by thirty days. To date, the District refuses these requests because Dynasty is not the named customer on the account.

In July 2010, Dynasty filed the instant petition for inverse condemnation against the District for its refusal to terminate service as Dynasty requested, thereby increasing Dynasty's liability for delinquent service charges and late penalties. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the District's motion. This appeal followed.


In its sole point on appeal, Dynasty asserts the trial court erred in granted summary judgment in favor of the District on Dynasty's inverse condemnation claim because the District's refusal to terminate services at Dynasty's request constitutes a taking.

A. Standard of review

Summary judgment is reviewed essentially de novo and affirmed only where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. ITT Commercial Finance Corp. v. Mid–America Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). We review the record in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was entered. Roberts v. BJC Health System, 391 S.W.3d 433, 437 (Mo. banc 2013).

B. Inverse condemnation

A claim for inverse condemnation arises from Article I, Section 26 of the Missouri Constitution, which provides that “private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation.” The property owner need not show an actual taking of property, but “must plead and prove an invasion or appropriation of some valuable property right which the landowner has to the legal and proper use of his property, which invasion or appropriation directly and specially affects the landowner to his injury.” Heuer v. City of Cape Girardeau, 370 S.W.3d 903, 914 (Mo.App.E.D.2012) (quotations omitted). Inverse condemnation is the exclusive remedy when private property is damaged by a nuisance operated by an entity having the power of eminent domain. Miller v. City of Wentzville, 371 S.W.3d 54, 57 (Mo.App. E.D. 2012).

C. Statutory authority

Dynasty claims that it has suffered an invasion of its property rights and a taking because the District refuses to terminate service at Dynasty's request, subjecting Dynasty to delinquent service charges and late penalties. Specifically, Dynasty asserts that it has the right to terminate service because both the tenant and Dynasty are deemed furnishees of the District's services pursuant to section 250.140.1, regardless of the fact that the accounts are in tenants' names.

The District responds that section 250.140.1 affords Dynasty no such right because it only addresses Dynasty's liability, but does not provide it with extra rights or powers. The District further argues that it has lawfully implemented internal rules and regulations pursuant to section 247.050(17), which dictate that services will only be terminated if an account is not paid forty-five days from the date of the bill or at the request of the “customer.”

Dynasty, in turn, responds that the District's rules and regulations are invalid because Rule 8(A), providing that [w]ater and/or sewer service shall be deemed to be furnished to both the occupant and/or the owner of the premises receiving service,” conflicts with section 250.140.1 and the District has therefore exceeded its rulemaking authority. All roads lead to the correct meaning of section 250.140.1.

Statutory interpretation is an issue of law that we review de novo. Finnegan v. Old Republic Title Co. of St. Louis, Inc., 246 S.W.3d 928, 930 (Mo. banc 2008). “The primary rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain the intent of the General Assembly from the language used and to give effect to that intent.” Id. To determine legislative intent, words are to be given their plain and ordinary meaning. Id. We do not read any part of the statute in isolation, but consider the context of the entire statute and harmonize its provisions. Berra v. Danter, 299 S.W.3d 690, 696 (Mo.App.E.D.2009).

We begin with section 250.140.1 which provides:

Sewerage services, water services, or water and sewerage services combined shall be deemed to be furnished to both the occupant and owner of the premises receiving such service and, except as otherwise provided in subsection 2 of this section, the city, town, village, or sewer district or water supply district organized and incorporated under chapter 247 rendering such services shall have power to sue the occupant or owner, or both, of such real estate in a civil action to recover any sums due for such services less any deposit that is held by the city, town, village, or sewer district or water supply district organized and incorporated under chapter 247 for such services, plus a reasonable attorney's fee to be fixed by the court.

Dynasty argues that because the statute deems it to be a furnishee, it should have the same right to terminate service that the occupant has. We disagree. While section 250.140.1 does deem services to be furnished to both owner and occupant, the statute does not state, and it does not follow, that both parties share equal rights over the terms of the service. Reading section 250.140.1 as a whole, it is clear that the legislative intent of the dual furnishee rule is for property owners and occupants to share liability. The statute specifically grants the entity providing service the right to sue both occupant and owner over unpaid bills and the right to obtain attorney's fees. The purpose of the statute, then, is to benefit the entity providing service, not the property owner. In fact, the Missouri Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of section 250.140.1 is to afford the entity providing service with a personal remedy against the property owner who connects its property to a public water service, because such connections provide a valuable right not possessed by unconnected properties. City of Maryville v. Cushman, 363 Mo. 87, 249S.W.2d 347, 354 (Mo. banc 1952). Dynasty has failed to cite to any controlling authority to support its contention that section 250.140.1 provides it with any rights or remedies,4 as opposed to the additional obligations the section imposes in exchange for the valuable benefit conferred by the entity providing services.

Further, other subsections of section 250.140 make it clear that owner and occupant of served properties have different rights and obligations with respect to water and sewer services, despite the fact that they are both deemed furnishees. For example, section 250.140.5 states that when the property owner applies for services with the utility, the occupant is not liable for the owner's delinquent payment of a bill. This is directly opposite of section 250.140.1, which holds the property owner liable for non-payment by an occupant. When read together, sections 250.140.5 and 250.140.1 reveal a legislative intent...

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