Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell, No. SD 35226

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtJEFFREY W. BATES, J.
Citation588 S.W.3d 225
Parties The EMPIRE DISTRICT ELECTRIC COMPANY, Respondent, v. Douglas L. COVERDELL, Appellant, and City of Branson, et al., Respondents.
Decision Date05 December 2019
Docket NumberNo. SD 35226

588 S.W.3d 225

The EMPIRE DISTRICT ELECTRIC COMPANY, Respondent,
v.
Douglas L. COVERDELL, Appellant,
and
City of Branson, et al., Respondents.

No. SD 35226

Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, Division Two.

Filed: December 5, 2019


Attorneys for Appellant: Robert W. Cockerham of St. Louis, MO; Edward D. Robertson, Jr. and Mary D. Winter of Jefferson City, MO; and Steven B. Garner and Jeffrey M. Bauer of Springfield, MO.

Attorneys for Respondent, Empire District Electric Company: Dan R. Nelson and Joshua B. Christensen of Springfield, MO.

Attorneys for Respondent, City of Branson, MO: William L. Sauerwein of Clayton, MO; John Hein of St. Louis, MO; and Grant J. Mabie of Crestwood, MO.

Attorneys for Respondent, Central Bank of Branson: Lynn C. Rodgers of Springfield, MO and Mary Anne Lindsay of St. Louis, MO.

Attorneys for Respondents, HCW Development Co., LLC; HCW Private Development, LLC; and HCW North, LLC: Daniel J. Welsh, Jill R. Rembusch and Stephen C. Hiotis of St. Louis, MO.

Attorney for Respondent, Coverdell Enterprises, Inc.: Charles S. Genisio of Joplin, MO.

JEFFREY W. BATES, J.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of HCW Development Company, LLC; HCW Private Development, LLC; and HCW North, LLC (collectively, HCW) and against Douglas Coverdell (Coverdell) on his claim for adverse possession of approximately 27 acres of property, which includes portions of the Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri.1 Following entry of summary judgment in favor of HCW, a joint motion seeking to have the ruling on Coverdell’s adverse possession claim reduced to a final judgment was filed by three other parties also involved in the underlying dispute with Coverdell: the City of Branson (Branson); Empire District Electric Company (Empire); and Central Bank of Branson (Central). The trial court granted the joint motion and entered a final judgment disposing of all claims against all parties. Coverdell appealed from that judgment, raising four points of alleged error. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

This is the third time the underlying dispute has been before us on appeal. See Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 344 S.W.3d 842, 844 (Mo. App. 2011) ( Empire I ); Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 484 S.W.3d 1, 4 (Mo. App. 2015) ( Empire II ). By way of overview, the underlying dispute originated from a 2003 action in which Coverdell prevailed against Empire in quieting title to an initial 3.36-acre tract located north of the property at issue. The purported property description of that

588 S.W.3d 231

3.36-acre tract submitted by Coverdell, however, included a large tract of property south of the initial tract, together totaling 27 acres and encompassing portions of the Branson Landing. That property description was incorporated into the 2010 judgment. Empire and Branson appealed from that judgment. Empire I , 344 S.W.3d at 844.

In Empire I , this Court reversed the judgment in that civil case on the ground of plain error. Based on Coverdell’s judicial admissions at trial that the dispute concerned only the 3.36 acres "up north," our opinion in Empire I held that the 2010 judgment quieting title in Coverdell "in what appears to be a 27 acre tract of land was in error" and the judgment affected Branson’s substantial rights, resulting in a manifest injustice. Id . at 851-52. We reversed the 2010 judgment and remanded the cause. We instructed the trial court to permit Branson to amend its pleadings and to freely permit amendment of the pleadings of Empire and Coverdell, without prejudice to the rights of third parties to intervene in the litigation as the Rules of Civil Procedure might provide. Id . at 853.

Following remand, pursuant to the opinion and mandate in Empire I , Coverdell took the position that his claims were not limited to the 3.36 acres that were the subject of his judicial admissions. Instead, he asserted that he had always been claiming the full 27 acres, which he referred to as "Properties A and B." Property A includes Property B, which Coverdell alleged that he conveyed by deed to Coverdell Enterprises, Inc. (CEI). Because Property A includes the entirety of Property B, we use the phrase "Property A" to refer to the full 27-acre tract at issue in this appeal.2 Coverdell claimed ownership of this entire tract by deed (Count I) and by adverse possession (Count II). Consistent with this Court’s mandate in Empire I , additional interested parties sought and were granted intervention. These included lienholders U.S. Bank and Arvest Bank. Thereafter, Branson, U.S. Bank and Arvest Bank filed motions for summary judgment against Coverdell and CEI. They both failed to timely respond. The trial court entered summary judgments in favor of Branson, U.S. Bank and Arvest Bank, and against Coverdell and CEI on the Count I deed-based claims. The trial court also dismissed the Count II claim of Coverdell for adverse possession. Coverdell and CEI appealed, resulting in our opinion and mandate in Empire II , 484 S.W.3d at 1.

In Empire II , we held that the entry of summary judgment on the deed-based claims of Coverdell and CEI was proper. This Court reversed, however, as to the dismissal of Coverdell’s claim for adverse possession. We based the reversal on the inability to determine, from the property description of Property A, whether it "matched up with or overlapped specific

588 S.W.3d 232

portions" of other property described in the motions for summary judgment:

We cannot tell from the face of the summary judgments whether a claim by Coverdell that he had acquired [Property A] by adverse possession would be precluded by the uncontested facts set forth in the summary judgment motions that were constructively admitted by him due to his failure to controvert them.

Empire II , 484 S.W.3d at 34. We remanded the matter to the trial court "for further proceedings limited to the resolution of Coverdell’s claim for adverse possession of [Property A.]" Id .3

On the same day this Court decided Empire II , we decided a companion case brought in 2011 by lienholders U.S. Bank and Arvest Bank to quiet title to certain tracts of land included in the 2010 judgment. See U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Coverdell , 483 S.W.3d 390 (Mo. App. 2015). After the lienholders obtained judgments as to certain lots, Coverdell appealed. Id . at 394. This Court reversed and remanded, directing the trial court to stay the 2011 case, pending a final resolution of the instant case. Id . at 404.

HCW was among the parties involved in the 2011 companion case, but not in the instant case. HCW first became involved in late 2003 when HCW Development Company, LLC began leasing land from Branson to be developed as the Branson Landing. Following remand of Coverdell’s adverse possession claim in Empire II , HCW requested and was granted leave to intervene in this case. Thereafter, HCW filed their motion for summary judgment, memorandum in support, statements of 30 uncontroverted material facts and additional material facts (HCW’s SUMF).

Significantly, HCW’s SUMF began with facts that cleared up the confusion in Empire II . As mentioned previously, this Court could not tell from the face of the three previous summary judgments whether, and to what extent, Coverdell’s admissions applied to the same real estate Coverdell described as Property A. In Coverdell’s response to HCW’s SUMF, he admitted that: (1) the property at issue in this litigation was "Property A as described in [his] reasserted Claims"; (2) Property A as described "is the Branson Landing"; and (3) that Property A is set forth in Exhibit A, which is a survey that graphically depicts the real property to which he claims to have acquired title through adverse possession. There is no question that Coverdell is claiming adverse possession of the entire 27-acre tract described as Property A. HCW’s motion sought summary judgment, inter alia , on the ground that Coverdell cannot show the continuous ten-year time period required to show adverse possession of Property A as a matter of law.

Before the trial court ruled on HCW’s motion, Central, as the successor in interest to Arvest Bank, filed a motion to intervene. Coverdell did not object, and the trial court granted the motion. At this point in the litigation, the parties involved in the adverse possession dispute with Coverdell were HCW, Branson, Empire, and Central.

After extensive briefing on the matter, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of HCW and against Coverdell on his claim of adverse possession of Property A. Soon thereafter, upon the joint motion of Branson, Empire and Central, the trial court entered final judgment as to all parties

588 S.W.3d 233

on the grounds that the effect of the judgment, which held that Coverdell could not as a matter of law meet the elements of adverse possession, was dispositive of the entirety of Coverdell’s claim, thereby terminating the litigation as to all parties.

Coverdell presents four points on appeal. He contends the trial court erred by: (1) granting HCW’s motion for summary judgment; (2) entering judgments in favor of HCW, Branson, Empire and Central because "these parties lack standing"; (3)...

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2 practice notes
  • Frawley v. Frawley, WD 84025
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 18, 2021
    ...uniformity of decisions, protect the parties’ expectations, and promote judicial economy." Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 588 S.W.3d 225, 239 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019) (citing Walton v. City of Berkeley , 223 S.W.3d 126, 129 (Mo. banc 2007) ). "It can advance these goals only if......
  • Blanchard v. Blanchard (In re Blanchard), No. SD 36521
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 4, 2020
    ...but actually in the nature of loans —the opposite stance now premising her complaint on appeal. See Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 588 S.W.3d 225, 235 n.6 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019) ("It is well settled that this Court will not permit a party to take an inconsistent position or compla......
5 cases
  • Frawley v. Frawley, WD 84025
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 18, 2021
    ...ensure uniformity of decisions, protect the parties’ expectations, and promote judicial economy." Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 588 S.W.3d 225, 239 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019) (citing Walton v. City of Berkeley , 223 S.W.3d 126, 129 (Mo. banc 2007) ). "It can advance these goals only if it......
  • Coleman v. Hartman, WD 83925
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 25, 2021
    ..."failure to prove even one of the elements of adverse possession will defeat [their] claim." Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 588 S.W.3d 225, 234 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019) (quoting Conduff v. Stone , 968 S.W.2d 200, 203 (Mo. App. S.D. 1998) ).In the argument portion of his brief, Coleman al......
  • Boswell v. O'Neil, SD 37077
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 2, 2022
    ...committed by the trial court against an appellant materially affecting the merits of the action. Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell , 588 S.W.3d 225, 244 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019). Appellant cannot demonstrate the trial court committed an error in granting summary judgment based on the affirmat......
  • Boswell v. O'Neil, SD37077
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 2, 2022
    ...was committed by the trial court against an appellant materially affecting the merits of the action. Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell, 588 S.W.3d 225, 244 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019). Appellant cannot demonstrate the trial court committed 11 an error in granting summary judgment based on the af......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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