Hammond v. Toole

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Decision Date05 April 2022
Docket NumberWD84598
PartiesLLOYD H. HAMMOND AND NANCY HAMMOND, Appellants, v. ROBERT TOOLE AND TISHA L. TOOLE, Respondents, and F & C BANK, Respondent.



and F & C BANK, Respondent.

No. WD84598

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

April 5, 2022


Before: Alok Ahuja, Presiding Judge, Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge and Janet Sutton, Judge


Lloyd and Nancy Hammond (collectively, "the Hammonds") appeal from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Johnson County ejecting them from property, denying their request to set aside or reform a warranty deed or, in the alternative, for an award of money damages, and quieting title in favor of the purchasers of real estate, Robert and Tisha Toole (collectively, "the Tooles"). Finding no error, we affirm.


Factual and Procedural Background

The Hammonds owned property consisting of a home, and some outbuildings on eighty-one acres of pasture and timber located at 97 Southwest 951st Road, in Holden, Missouri ("the farm"). The farm had been in Lloyd Hammond's family since the 1800s. The Tooles owned the property just south of the Hammonds. The Hammonds and the Tooles had known each other for approximately thirty years. Robert Toole was close in age to the Hammonds' children, and he and Lloyd Hammond had a father-son type of relationship where they helped each other out on their farms, shared equipment, and confided in each other.

During the summer of 2017, Lloyd Hammond told Robert Toole that he had offered to sell the farm to his granddaughter for $160, 000, while retaining the right to continue living on the property. The Hammonds, who were in their eighties, wanted to pay off debt, purchase a recreational vehicle, and travel. Robert Toole told Lloyd Hammond that $160, 000 was too low and that the Hammonds should get at least $225, 000 while retaining the right to live on the property. Lloyd Hammond proposed that amount to his granddaughter who declined the offer. Lloyd Hammond then made the offer to Robert Toole who accepted.

The Hammonds and Tooles sought the advice of two attorneys regarding the deal, including whether a trust or life estate was needed. The Hammonds decided they did not want to establish a trust or retain a life estate in the property and would instead rely on a "handshake deal" that would allow them to live on the property following the outright sale of the farm to the Tooles. The Hammonds also told their granddaughter that she would have the ability to purchase the farm from Robert Toole after the Hammonds' deaths.


Around this same time, the Hammonds took out a separate loan to purchase a recreational vehicle with the intent to pay off the loan and travel once they received the proceeds from the sale of the farm.

Robert Toole obtained and filled out a form real estate contract in which the Hammonds agreed to sell the farm to the Tooles for $225, 000. The contract set out the purchase price, the closing date, and the legal description of the property, but it did not include a life estate for the Hammonds or mention the Hammonds retaining the right to live on the property. Both the Hammonds and Robert Toole signed the contract, and the bank set the closing date for October 30, 2018. At the closing, the Hammonds signed a warranty deed transferring the farm to the Tooles.

For the next eleven months, the Hammonds continued to live on the farm without paying rent, during which time they traveled in their RV. Before embarking on their RV travels, the Hammonds decided to rent the basement apartment to a friend of Robert Toole to watch over the home and take care of their cattle. The tenant paid $100 to the Hammonds, which they kept.

When the Hammonds returned from their travels in September 2019, a dispute arose between Lloyd Hammond and Robert Toole about electrical repairs that needed to be made to the farm house. Following this dispute, Robert Toole presented the Hammonds with a lease he had drafted outlining terms and restrictions for the Hammonds' continued use of the farm. The proposed lease did not require the Hammonds to pay rent but restricted their use of the property and required the removal of their cattle by February 29, 2020. The Hammonds refused to sign the lease.

Around this same time, a dispute also arose between Lloyd Hammond and his tenant resulting in law enforcement being called to the farm twice and the Hammonds applying for a temporary restraining order against the tenant.


After these incidents occurred, Robert Toole sent a letter through counsel attempting to evict the Hammonds from the farm. In response, the Hammonds filed this action in the Circuit Court of Johnson County seeking to have the warranty deed set aside or reformed, or, in the alternative, to obtain an award of damages for unjust enrichment or breach of fiduciary duty. The petition also included a claim for conversion relating to several items of personal property. In response, the Tooles asserted counterclaims to quiet title as well as for ejectment/unlawful detainer, and unjust enrichment.

A bench trial was held, at which multiple witnesses testified, including the Hammonds and Robert Toole. Robert Toole testified that he did not include a life estate or right of first refusal for the Hammonds' granddaughter in the real estate contract at the request of the Hammonds. Robert Toole acknowledged that he agreed to allow the Hammonds to remain living on the property at the time he purchased the farm, but worried about liability following the dispute over the electrical repair and Lloyd Hammond's disagreement with his tenant. The Hammonds asserted that by the time they realized that the sales documents did not include language allowing them to continue to reside on the property, Robert Toole told them it was too late.[1] The Hammonds admitted that they did not read either the real estate contract or the deed before signing them. Lloyd Hammond also admitted that he believed Robert Toole would honor their "handshake deal" despite it not being in the contract. Several witnesses testified to knowledge of an agreement between Robert Toole and the Hammonds that would permit the Hammonds to continue to live on the property, including the loan agent from the bank that provided the loan to Robert Toole to purchase the farm. The parties also acknowledged that they knew the farm was worth more than $225, 000 at the time of the


transaction. At trial, an appraiser testified that, as of November 1, 2019, the property was worth $470, 000, but the parties disputed how much the farm had been worth at the time of the sale.

The trial court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law quieting title in favor of the Tooles, ejecting the Hammonds from the farm, and finding insufficient credible evidence to support any award of money damages.[2] The Hammonds appeal from that judgment.

Standard of Review

Our review from a court-tried case is governed by the standard of review set forth in Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). See A2 Creative Grp., LLC v. Anderson, 596 S.W.3d 214, 218 (Mo. App. W.D. 2020). "'We will affirm the judgment unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law.'" Id. (quoting Brasher v. Craig, 483 S.W.3d 446, 450 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016)) (citing Murphy, 536 S.W.2d at 32). We view the evidence "in the light most favorable to the judgment and contradictory evidence is disregarded." Id. (citing Brasher, 483 S.W.3d at 450). "'We also defer to the circuit court's determination of the weight to be given the evidence and credibility of the witnesses'" as "'[t]he circuit court is free to believe some, all, or none of the testimony of any witness.'" Id. (quoting Brasher, 483 S.W.3d at 450).


The Hammonds raise three points on appeal. In their first point, the Hammonds claim that the trial court misapplied the law by improperly applying the parol evidence rule. In their second point, the Hammonds allege that the trial court's judgment was against the weight of the evidence. Finally, in their third point, the Hammonds assert that the trial court erred in declining to award them money damages.


Point I - Misapplication of the Law

In Point I, the Hammonds allege that the trial court misapplied the parol evidence rule, arguing that "the parol evidence rule was not applicable because the real estate contract and warranty deed were not fully integrated or exceptions to the rule applied[.]" The Hammonds claim that the trial court "used the parol evidence rule to exclude an[d] disregard clear, cogent and convincing evidence that supported setting aside or...

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