Healer v. Kansas City Public Service Co.

Citation251 S.W.2d 66
Decision Date08 September 1952
Docket NumberNo. 1,Nos. 42910,42911,s. 42910,1
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri

Charles L. Carr, Thomas A. Costolow, Kansas City, for appellant.

Louis Wagner, Kansas City, and Walter A. Raymond, Kansas City, for respondent.

COIL, Commissioner.

The issues in these cases, consolidated on appeal, are identical. Plaintiff in Case No. 42,911 is the husband of plaintiff in Case No. 42,910. By her petition for $50,000, plaintiff-wife averred that while a passenger on defendant-appellant's streetcar she sustained injuries as the result of defendant's negligence. Plaintiff-husband sought $15,000 damages for loss of services and companionship and for expenses incurred by reason of injury to his wife.

On January 3 (all dates are in 1951), defendant took plaintiffs' depositions. On May 21, defendant filed a motion in each case seeking an order of court requiring the plaintiffs to sign their respective depositions unless either had some legal reason for not signing, and praying that, on failure to sign or to state a reason therefor, the pleadings of such plaintiff be stricken. Copies of these motions were served on plaintiffs' counsel on May 21 but no notice as to the time when these motions would be presented to the court appears to have been given. On May 24, defendant's motions were sustained and each plaintiff was given 30 days in which to sign his or her deposition. On July 9, defendant filed its motion in each case asserting that plaintiff had not signed the deposition, that the 30 days from May 24 had expired, and prayed for a judgment dismissing each plaintiff's case. Copies of these motions were served on plaintiff's counsel on July 9 but no notice as to the time when the motions would be presented to the court appears to have been served on either plaintiffs or their counsel. On July 17, defendant's motion to dismiss in each case was sustained 'for failure of plaintiff to comply with order of court'. On August 17, plaintiffs filed similar motions to set aside the dismissals. Plaintiff-wife's motion was:

'Motion to Set Aside Judgment. 1. Comes now plaintiff in the above-entitled cause and states that on July 9, 1951, defendant Kansas City Public Service Company served a motion upon counsel then representing the plaintiff, to-wit: Albert H. Osborne and Robert B. Sympson, a motion to dismiss; that plaintiff was not aware that said motion was pending and had no notice thereof and that no one appeared for the plaintiff and said cause was dismissed. Plaintiff further states that she was not advised that she had been required to sign her deposition and that plaintiff was ready and willing at all times to sign her deposition; that said deposition has now been signed by the plaintiff.

'2. Plaintiff states that counsel who were representing her in said cause had had disbarment proceedings filed against them and that they have not been active in the practice of law and have not properly defended plaintiff's cause; that said counsel have withdrawn and that plaintiff has obtained new counsel. Plaintiff further states that he has a meritorious cause of action and that it will greatly prejudice her if her cause is dismissed. She further states that the action on the part of the court was caused by no fault of hers and for the above reasons her cause of action should be reinstated and she should be permitted to pursue her cause of action against the defendant Kansas City Public Service Company.

'Wherefore, plaintiff prays the court to set aside the judgment of the court heretofore entered against her and reinstate her cause of action.'

On September 21, plaintiff's motion to set aside was sustained in each case 'and said cause was by the Court returned to the general docket.' The judgments of dismissal, while not specifying that the dismissals were without prejudice, amounted to dismissals without prejudice. This, because the record shows that these involuntary dismissals were entered without notice and opportunity to be heard. The motion to dismiss authorized by Section 510.140 RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S., is a motion which, together with notice of time of hearing thereof, must be served as provided in Section 506.060, subd. 4. Bindley v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 358 Mo. 31, 37, 213 S.W.2d 387, 391; Crispin v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 361 Mo. 866, 237 S.W.2d 153, 154, 155.

Defendant has appealed from the judgments setting aside the judgments of dismissal, contending that the court was wholly without jurisdiction to set aside such judgments.

Plaintiffs contend that the court had jurisdiction to set aside the dismissals by virtue of Section 511.250, RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S. (all statutory references are to RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S.), providing for a motion to set aside a judgment for irregularities filed within three years after the expiration of 30 days from the date the judgment was rendered. Casper v. Lee, Mo.Sup., 245 S.W.2d 132, 137[5-8]. Plaintiffs further contend that the dismissals were authorized on the theory that their motions to set aside should be considered and treated as motions in the nature of writs of error coram nobis.

Inasmuch as the issues are the same in each case, we shall, for convenience, hereinafter refer to one plaintiff and one judgment. It is apparent that unless the judgment of dismissal on the face of the record was void, or unless plaintiff's motion to set aside could have been considered as a motion pursuant to the provisions of Section 511.250 or as a writ of error coram nobis, the trial court was without jurisdiction to set aside its judgment of dismissal. This is because, subsequent to the court's judgment of dismissal, no timely motion for new trial was filed and more than 30 days elapsed between the judgment of dismissal (July 17) and the action of the court in setting aside the judgment of dismissal on September 21. Section 510.370; Supreme Court Rule 3.25; Wooten v. Friedberg, 355 Mo. 756, 763, 198 S.W.2d 1, 5.

We, therefore, first determine whether it appears from the judgment itself, or upon the face of the proceedings antecedent to it, that the judgment of dismissal was void. Wooten v. Friedberg, supra, 198 S.W.2d 7; McIntosh v. Wiggins, 356 Mo. 926, 931, 204 S.W.2d 770, 772[6, 7]. If the trial court was without jurisdiction to render the judgment of dismissal for failure to comply with the order of the court directing plaintiff to sign a deposition within 30 days, then the judgment was void and the trial court had inherent power to eliminate from its records a nullity, and this court may consider a contention that the record shows the judgment attacked to be void even though raised in this court for the first time. McIntosh v. Wiggins, supra, 204 S.W.2d 772[3-5]; Simplex Paper Corp. v. Standard Corrugated Box Co., 231 Mo.App. 764, 775, 97 S.W.2d 862, 868; Freeman on Judgments, Vol. 1, Fifth Ed., Sec. 226, pp. 443-445; Hankins v. Smarr, 345 Mo. 973, 976, 137 S.W.2d 499, 501.

Section 510.140 provides in part: 'For failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or to comply with this code or any order of court, a defendant may move for dismissal of an action or of any claim against him.' (Italics ours.) Thus, if the trial court in this case possessed the judicial power to order plaintiff to sign a deposition within 30 days, the trial court, by virtue of Section 510.140, clearly had jurisdiction to adjudge dismissal of plaintiff's case for failure to comply with that order. Crispin v. St. Louis Public Service Co., supra, 237 S.W.2d 155; Carr, Mo.Civ.Proc., Sec. 799, p. 831 (Discussion). But jurisdiction to dismiss for failure to comply with an order of the court, whether by inherent...

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  • Mcpherson v. U.S. Physicians Mut.
    • United States
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    • January 31, 2003
    ...child support, Parker v. Bruner, 692 S.W.2d 379, 382 (Mo.App.1985); expunge from its records a void judgment, Healer v. Kansas City Pub. Serv. Co., 251 S.W.2d 66, 68 (Mo.1952); and order restitution of money paid because of an incorrect judgment, State ex rel. Util. Consumers' Council of Mo......
  • Capra v. Phillips Inv. Co.
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    ...as his changed answers, with his reasons, if any, therefor, upon his renewed oath constitute his deposition. Consult Healer v. Kansas City Pub. Serv. Co., Mo., 251 S.W.2d 66, 69. Plaintiffs also contend the original answers were admissible as declarations, as distinguished from admissions, ......
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    ...in this cause are signed by the Judge.'1 Thompson v. McCormick, 138 Colo. 434, 335 P.2d 265 (1959); Healer v. Kansas City Public Service Co., 251 S.W.2d 66 (Missouri Sup.1952); Seela v. Haye, 256 Iowa 606, 128 N.W.2d 279 (1964); Miot v. Jo Carl Realty Corp., 19 A.D.2d 889, 244 N.Y.S.2d 721 ......
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    ...(Mo.App.1961). Further, a dismissal for failure to follow a court order presupposes an order lawfully made. Healer v. Kansas City Public Service Co., 251 S.W.2d 66, 68(5) (Mo.1952). When plaintiffs claim they do not know the date of one event, they should not be penalized for failure to spe......
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