James v. Paul

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtSummary of opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part by White; Summary of opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part by Wolff; John C. Holstein; OPINION CONCURRING IN PART AND DISSENTING IN PART BY RONNIE L. WHITE; OPINION CONCURRING I
Citation49 S.W.3d 678
Parties(Mo.App. S.D. 2001) Danny T. James, Respondent, v. Robert M. Paul, Respondent, State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Appellant. SC82867 0
Decision Date29 May 2001

49 S.W.3d 678 (Mo.App. S.D. 2001)
Danny T. James, Respondent,
v.
Robert M. Paul, Respondent, State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Appellant.
SC82867
Supreme Court of Missouri
05/29/2001

Appeal From: Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Honorable Jack E. Gant, Judge

Counsel for Appellant: Phillip B. Grubaugh

Counsel for Respondent: J. Kent Emison, Robert L. Langdon, Michael W. Blanton and Thomas C. Locke

Opinion Summary: Robert Paul stabbed Danny James and pleaded guilty to first degree assault. James sued Paul. Paul's homeowner's insurance policy covered occurrences but excluded his willful or malicious acts. The insurer refused to defend or cover Paul, explaining the incident was not an occurrence and was excluded. James and Paul agreed that Paul would waive a jury trial and not present any evidence if James would limit execution to Paul's homeowner's insurance policy. After judgment against Paul, James filed a garnishment against Paul's insurer. The court denied the insurer's motion for summary judgment and granted James summary judgment.

Court en banc holds: (1) The insurer is entitled to summary judgment in the garnishment action under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, also referred to as issue preclusion, because of Paul's guilty plea in the criminal case. That conviction resolved the question of whether Paul's stabbing of James was intentional or willful, resulting in no coverage under the policy.

(A) The issue of intent was identical in both the civil and criminal cases.

(B) The guilty plea resulted in judgment on the merits.

(C) The party to be estopped was a party to or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication. James' claim is that of a third party beneficiary of Paul's contract with the insurer. The separate opinion's author relies on an illustration in the Restatement (Second) of Judgments as to privity that has been rejected in two of the three cases in which it has been cited and is contrary to the majority of recent cases.

(D) A "full and fair opportunity to litigate" was had. In determining whether non-mutual collateral estoppel will apply, the Court considers first whether the doctrine is being applied offensively or defensively. To the extent Wallace v. Director of Revenue and Curtain v. Aldrich are arguably inconsistent with Oates v. Safeco Inx. Co. of Am., which first recognized non-mutual collateral estoppel, they are overruled. The insurer invokes collateral estoppel defensively. The primary reason for distinguishing between offensive and defensive use of collateral estoppel is the equitable nature of the doctrine. Here equitable concerns, such as avoiding a criminal's profit from his fraud, weigh for collateral estoppel. There are a number of policy reasons for giving a guilty plea the same preclusive effect as a finding of guilt after trial, including that a factual basis exists for the plea and that a judicial determination is made with respect to the crime's essential elements. Other equitable arguments, such as consistency, support giving Paul's guilty plea preclusive effect. Application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel to a guilty plea as used defensively in this case is not inequitable, given the record.

(2) Equitable estoppel does not apply to prevent the insurer from asserting the absence of coverage. It would be inequitable for the insurer to be collaterally estopped from asserting its coverage defenses in the garnishment action. The insurer justifiably relied on the criminal judicial admission and determination in concluding it had no coverage and, thus, no duty to defend Paul in the civil action. Also, there is a lack of privity between Paul and the insurer in the civil case.

Summary of opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part by White, J.

This author concurs with the majority's conclusion that estoppel does not preclude the insurer from raising its coverage defenses in the garnishment action, but dissents from the analysis that the insurer may apply defensive collateral estoppel to the guilty plea. This author argues: James is deprived of his opportunity to challenge the intentional act exclusion. Plea bargains do not result from a full litigation of the underlying factual issues. A guilty plea is a declaration against interest, not independent, objective evidence of guilt. The principal opinion misreads Oates. There is a dispute as to the fact of "intent." This author would remand to the garnishment court for a full proceeding on the coverage issue.

Summary of opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part by Wolff, J.

This author concurs in Judge White's separate opinion but writes separately to emphasize that basic due process principles apply to this case. This author argues that James was not in privity with Paul, who was representing Paul's own interests, and thus did not have James's day in court.

Price, C.J., Limbaugh and Benton, JJ., concur; White, J., concurs in part and dissents in part in separate opinion filed; Wolff, J., concurs in part and dissents in part in separate opinion filed; Wallace, Sp.J., concurs in opinions of White and Wolff, JJ. Stith, J., not participating.

John C. Holstein, Judge

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm) appeals from a summary judgment entered against it, as garnishee, in a garnishment proceeding filed in Jackson County circuit court by Danny T. James. State Farm also challenges the denial of its own motion for summary judgment against James. The claim arises from a homeowner's insurance policy held by Robert M. Paul. The case was transferred here after opinion by the Missouri Court of Appeals. Rule 83.02; Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 10. The trial court's judgment is reversed, and the cause is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. FACTS

The basic facts of this case are not in dispute. Robert Paul and his wife, Kayleen, filed for a dissolution of marriage. A hearing was scheduled in Jackson County circuit court for June 9, 1989. In the interim, the couple separated, and Kayleen retained the family home in Independence and custody of their daughters. Paul moved to an apartment.

On the evening before the hearing, Paul, suspecting Kayleen of infidelity, traveled to her home after having consumed a considerable amount of beer. Once there, he peered through the living room window and witnessed his wife engaging in sexual relations with Danny James on the couch. Enraged, Paul tried unsuccessfully to break down the front door. Undaunted, he broke the living room window, but was injured in the process and was unable to enter. After retrieving a knife from his truck, Paul proceeded to the kitchen window. He broke the window and climbed into the house. He passed Kayleen, who was now in the kitchen, and proceeded to the living room, where he found James. Paul stabbed James in the abdomen three times. Both men were taken to the hospital but survived their injuries.

Paul was charged with first degree assault. He pleaded guilty to the offense on August 8, 1989. At the plea hearing, where Paul was represented by counsel, Paul admitted stabbing James. He indicated that he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty. When counsel interrogated Paul about whether he understood the constitutional rights he was waiving as well as the terms and conditions of the plea agreement, Paul replied that he did understand. The court reiterated these questions and asked Paul whether he was satisfied with his representation. Paul gave the same response and answered that he was satisfied with counsel's performance. The court found Paul's plea was made voluntarily and intelligently and that there was a factual basis supporting the assault charge. The court sentenced him to five years imprisonment but suspended the sentence, placing Paul on probation.

At the time of the stabbing, Paul had a homeowner's insurance policy with State Farm, which also provided personal liability coverage. Section II, Coverage L, of the policy provided in relevant part:

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, caused by an occurrence, [State Farm] will:

1. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable; and

2. provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice.

The word "occurrence" is defined in the policy as: "[A]n accident . . . which results in . . . bodily injury . . . during the policy period." Section II of the policy contained the following exclusions from liability coverage:

SECTION II -- EXCLUSIONS

COVERAGE L . . . does not apply to:

(A) bodily injury or property damage

(1) which is either expected or intended by an insured; or

(2) to any person or property which is the result of willful or malicious acts of an insured.

Paul promptly informed State Farm of a potential claim and sought coverage for any claims James might assert against him. In a letter explaining that the incident was not an occurrence as defined in the policy and that it also triggered the exclusion provisions of the policy, State Farm denied coverage.

On February 9, 1992, James filed a personal injury claim in Jackson County circuit court. In his amended petition, he alleged careless and negligent conduct on the part of Paul. The specific conduct alleged was that while Paul was "incapacitated and unable to control the nature of his conduct," he "inflicted a knife wound upon DANNY T. JAMES." State Farm declined to defend. James and Paul then entered into a settlement agreement. It provided Paul would waive a jury trial, not present evidence and pay James $3,500. James agreed to limit any execution to the State Farm policy and further promised that if James was unsuccessful in the garnishment against State Farm, Paul would pay an additional $21,500.

Paul failed to appear for trial. The trial proceeded, and the court...

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28 practice notes
  • Rosenberg v. Shostak, No. ED 98219.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • August 13, 2013
    ...the plaintiff in earlier litigation that is necessary for the plaintiff to establish and carry his burden of proof.” James v. Paul, 49 S.W.3d 678, 685 (Mo. banc 2001). Generally, courts favor defensive collateral estoppel more than offensive collateral estoppel. Brown, 370 S.W.3d at 659. Un......
  • State ex rel. Greitens v. Am. Tobacco Co., No. SC95422
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • February 14, 2017
    ...to apply, the party must have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding); see also James v. Paul , 49 S.W.3d 678, 682 (Mo. banc 2001) (the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted must have been given a full and fair opportunity to litigate the ......
  • Brown v. Carnahan, Nos. SC 92582
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 31, 2012
    ...final and binding on the party against whom it is asserted.” Id. This doctrine may be employed offensively or defensively. James v. Paul, 49 S.W.3d 678, 685 (Mo. banc 2001) “[O]ffensive collateral estoppel normally involves the attempt by a plaintiff to rely on a prior adjudication of an is......
  • Gamble v. Browning, No. WD 73352.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 31, 2012
    ...of collateral estoppel in Oates v. Safeco Insurance Co. of America, 583 S.W.2d 713, 719 (Mo. banc 1979). See also, e.g., James v. Paul, 49 S.W.3d 678, 685 (Mo. banc 2001). Indeed, although it quotes from Moran, Smith itself recognizes that “[t]he federal rule comports with the modern trend ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
28 cases
  • Rosenberg v. Shostak, No. ED 98219.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • August 13, 2013
    ...the plaintiff in earlier litigation that is necessary for the plaintiff to establish and carry his burden of proof.” James v. Paul, 49 S.W.3d 678, 685 (Mo. banc 2001). Generally, courts favor defensive collateral estoppel more than offensive collateral estoppel. Brown, 370 S.W.3d at 659. Un......
  • State ex rel. Greitens v. Am. Tobacco Co., No. SC95422
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • February 14, 2017
    ...to apply, the party must have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding); see also James v. Paul , 49 S.W.3d 678, 682 (Mo. banc 2001) (the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted must have been given a full and fair opportunity to litigate the ......
  • Brown v. Carnahan, Nos. SC 92582
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 31, 2012
    ...final and binding on the party against whom it is asserted.” Id. This doctrine may be employed offensively or defensively. James v. Paul, 49 S.W.3d 678, 685 (Mo. banc 2001) “[O]ffensive collateral estoppel normally involves the attempt by a plaintiff to rely on a prior adjudication of an is......
  • Gamble v. Browning, No. WD 73352.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 31, 2012
    ...of collateral estoppel in Oates v. Safeco Insurance Co. of America, 583 S.W.2d 713, 719 (Mo. banc 1979). See also, e.g., James v. Paul, 49 S.W.3d 678, 685 (Mo. banc 2001). Indeed, although it quotes from Moran, Smith itself recognizes that “[t]he federal rule comports with the modern trend ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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