Kennon v. Citizens Mut. Ins. Co., s. 45514

Citation666 S.W.2d 782
Decision Date22 November 1983
Docket Number45515,Nos. 45514,s. 45514
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
PartiesEdwin R. KENNON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITIZENS MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., and Colonial Federal Savings & Loan Association, Defendants-Respondents, and Alice K. Kennon, Defendant-Appellant.

Dennis C. Brewer, Perryville, for plaintiff-appellant.

V. Kenneth Rohrer, Farmington, Albert C. Lowes, Jackson, for defendants-respondents.

KAROHL, District Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Edwin Kennon and cross-claimant-appellant Alice Kennon (formerly husband and wife) seek reversal of the trial court's grant of defendant-respondent Citizens Mutual Insurance Company's ("Citizens") motion for summary judgment. While plaintiff filed his petition within the applicable one year statute of limitations, the court found that defendant Citizens was not served within the period of the statute of limitations or for a reasonable time thereafter. We reverse.

Appellants purchased a single insurance policy on their home from defendant Columbia Mutual Insurance Company to insure public liability and from defendant Citizens to insure fire loss. On July 5, 1980, a fire destroyed the insured home. Plaintiff Edwin Kennon filed suit on March 10, 1981 against both insurance companies and appellant Alice Kennon, his former wife. She filed a cross-claim, raising the same issues as those in plaintiff's petition.

On April 9, 1981, Citizens filed an answer contesting the court's jurisdiction, claiming that it had not been lawfully served. Citizens pleaded that the purported service, made in Boone County, Missouri, was defective in that it was had on an officer of defendant Columbia Mutual Insurance Company. Since that officer had neither official capacity nor was an agent for Citizens, Citizens plead that it was not served. Citizens' answer also went to the merits of plaintiff's claim.

Between April 9, 1981 and July 5, 1981, Citizens moved the court for an order to secure costs, served interrogatories on plaintiff, received Alice Kennon's cross-claim, and filed a similar answer, repeating its assertion that the court lacked jurisdiction over defendant. Citizens also responded to Alice Kennon's motion for production of documents and interrogatories.

On September 1, 1981, Citizens appeared before the trial court to contest a notice of readiness and to request a trial setting. At a second appearance, on October 6, 1981, the court set a trial date for February 24, 1982.

Plaintiff requested an alias summons to issue for defendant Citizens on October 29, 1981. On October 30, 1981, Citizens served notice to take depositions. The sheriff of Cape Girardeau County reported service on defendant Citizens on November 3, 1981. The return of service recited that the summons was left with "Mrs. Ann Wills (secretary)."

Defendant Citizens filed a motion for summary judgment on December 10, 1981. Citizens contended that its original answer informed plaintiff that it was a farmers mutual insurance company and thus a corporation under Chapter 380 RSMo 1978. Thus, the applicable statute of limitations was one year, § 380.840 RSMo 1978, and began to run on July 5, 1980. The motion stated that the original service conveyed no jurisdiction over Citizens, and that neither party attempted to obtain service until the alias summons was issued on October 29, 1981, after the statute of limitations had expired. Citizens contended in the motion and by affidavit that the alias summons was left at the company's office with a secretary who was not an agent, servant or employee for purposes of receiving summons, and therefore requested summary judgment based upon the expiration of the statute of limitations and lack of personal jurisdiction.

The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment after a hearing at which only counsel for Alice Kennon, and defendant Citizens appeared. The trial court designated this as a final appealable judgment under Rule 81.06 since Colonial Federal Savings & Loan Association, an inactive party, remained in the case.

In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court found that the alias summons was left with a clerical employee, and that at no time was service had on a corporate officer of Citizens. The court concluded that there was no genuine issue of fact that no reasonable effort at service on Citizens had been made prior to July 5, 1981 (date of expiration of the one year statute of limitations) nor within a reasonable time thereafter.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy and is therefore inappropriate unless the prevailing party has shown by unassailable proof to be entitled thereto as a matter of law, First National Bank of St. Charles v. Chemical Products, Inc., 637 S.W.2d 373, 375 (Mo.App.1982), even though his affidavit in support of the motion has not been opposed. E.O. Dorsch Electric Co. v. Plaza Construction Co., 413 S.W.2d 167, 170 (Mo.1967). Summary judgment should not be granted where there is the slightest doubt as to material facts. First National Bank v. South Side National Bank, 644 S.W.2d 377, 379 (Mo.App.1982).

In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we must scrutinize the record in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was rendered. Miller v. Kruetz, 643 S.W.2d 310, 312 (Mo.App.1982). The summary judgment procedure is an appropriate vehicle, however, for assertion of an affirmative defense entitling the party to judgment as a matter of law. Blanks v. Cantwell, 578 S.W.2d 349, 350 (Mo.App.1979).

Defendant claimed that although plaintiff's suit was filed within one year from the date of the loss, defendant was never appropriately served, and therefore the one year statute of limitations, § 380.840, expired.

Generally, the filing of a petition and issuance of summons is but a conditional halting of the applicable statute of limitations. Daniels v. Schierding, 650 S.W.2d 337, 339 (Mo.App.1983). Continued suspension of the limitation period is conditioned upon due diligence being exercised in obtaining service. Atkinson v. BeMac Transport, Inc., 595 S.W.2d 26, 28 (Mo.App.1980). Whether due diligence has been exercised is to be determined on a case by case basis. Wooliver v. Schoop, 509 S.W.2d 216, 217 (Mo.App.1974).

Plaintiff contends that he exercised due diligence because the petition was filed within the period of the statute, defendant had notice of the case, the sheriff's return properly showed service of process upon defendant in Columbia, Missouri, and defendant participated in pre-trial matters.

Plaintiff cannot rely on the sheriff's return of his original attempt at service, however. Plaintiff's order to issue an alias summons constitutes an abandonment of the original service. State ex rel. Peterbilt Co. v. Litz, 569 S.W.2d 387 (Mo.App.1978). State ex rel. Masada Seisakusho Co. v. Moss, 548 S.W.2d 185 (Mo.App.1977).

We turn then to the question of whether plaintiff exercised due diligence in obtaining service upon defendant Citizens on November 3, 1981. It is upon this issue, a mixed question of law and fact, that defendant has failed to show by unassailable proof that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Citizens presented an affidavit at the motion for summary judgment stating that Ann Wills was an employee for clerical purposes and for no other purpose. As plaintiff filed no opposing affidavit, the facts stated therein stand admitted for purposes of summary judgment. Blanks v. Cantwell, 578 S.W.2d at 350; Cherry v. City of Hayti Heights, 563 S.W.2d 72, 75 (Mo. banc 1978). Nevertheless, even if Mrs. Wills was only a clerical employee, by statute, she could have received service of process on behalf of Citizens. Section 506.150 RSMo 1978 provides that service shall be made upon a corporation by delivering a copy of the summons and the petition to an officer, partner, a managing or general agent, "or by leaving the copies at any business office of the defendant with the person having charge thereof ...." The affidavit failed to state that Mrs. Wills did not have charge of the office at the time of service. That fact cannot be deemed admitted.

In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court stated only that Mrs. Wills was a clerical employee and that at no time was service ever had on any corporate officer of Citizens. While this may be true, § 506.150 does not require that service can only be made upon a corporate officer. The court then concludes that no reasonable effort at service was made either before the expiration of the statute or within a reasonable time thereafter.

We believe that these findings indicate that the court had a mistaken belief that plaintiff was required to serve a corporate officer to have adequate service. Moreover, the court's findings cannot support the conclusion of law that no adequate service was had on Citizens when Mrs. Wills' capacity to receive service was an issue of fact.

On the state of the record, summary judgment was not a proper remedy in this case. See Want v. Leve, 574...

To continue reading

Request your trial
20 cases
  • Johnson v. State
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1996
    ...has never asserted that he was not in charge of Christie's business office, he was properly served. See Kennon v. Citizens Mut. Ins. Co., 666 S.W.2d 782, 785 (Mo.App.1983). Finally, Johnson argues that because of these alleged deficiencies, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the sub......
  • Schwartz v. Lawson, WD
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • September 25, 1990
    ...a suitable device for the summary adjudication of statute of limitations and other affirmative defenses. Kennon v. Citizens Mut. Ins. Co., 666 S.W.2d 782, 784-85[3,4] (Mo.App.1983); Herron v. Whiteside, 782 S.W.2d 414, 416[2, 3] (Mo.App.1989). The party who moves for summary judgment bears ......
  • Franklin v. Board of Directors, School Dist. of Kansas City
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • June 20, 1989
    ...timely by analogy to cases where statutes of limitations are tolled despite delayed service. See Kennon vs. Citizens Mutual Insurance Company, 666 S.W.2d 782, 785-86 (Mo.App.1983) citing Emanuel vs. Richards, 426 S.W.2d 716, 719 (Mo.App.1968). The objection of untimely service is therefore ......
  • Labarge Realty, LLC v. Sand Dev., LLC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
    • May 9, 2019
    ...at the time of service." Kitchens v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 737 S.W.2d 219, 222 (Mo. Ct. App. 1987) (citing Kennon v. Citizens Mut. Ins. Co., 666 S.W.2d 782 (Mo. Ct. App. 1983)). When, as here, a party uses a special process server, that party bears the burden of showing that all of the p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT