Loveland v. Austin, ED 108859

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtKelly C. Broniec, Judge
Citation626 S.W.3d 716
Parties Weston T. LOVELAND III, Respondent, v. Gabriel AUSTIN, Respondent, Shelter Mutual Insurance Company, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. ED 108859,ED 108859
Decision Date13 April 2021

626 S.W.3d 716

Weston T. LOVELAND III, Respondent,
v.
Gabriel AUSTIN, Respondent,

Shelter Mutual Insurance Company, Appellant.

No. ED 108859

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION ONE.

Filed: April 13, 2021
Application for Transfer Denied August 31, 2021


FOR APPELLANT: William C. Crawford, 1200 Main Street, Suite 2200, Kansas City, Missouri 64105, Lynsey R. Coffey, Paul D. Link, 1354 East Kingsley, Suite C, Springfield, Missouri 65804.

FOR RESPONDENT: J. Michael Ponder, PO Box 1180, Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63702, F. Patrick Davis, 2 North Pacific Street, Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701, Matthew R. Davis, 1305 Ashland Road, Apartment J., Columbia, Missouri 65201, James M. Payne, PO Box 1150, Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63702, Jeffrey M. Bauer, 415 East Chestnut Expressway, Springfield, Missouri 65802.

Kelly C. Broniec, Judge

626 S.W.3d 719

Shelter Mutual Insurance Company ("Shelter") appeals the trial court's judgment confirming the arbitration award on Weston Loveland's ("Loveland") personal injury claim against Gabriel Austin ("Austin") in conjunction with the agreement entered into by Loveland and Austin limiting Austin's liability pursuant to § 537.065 and denying Shelter's motion to intervene in the case.1 Shelter raises nine points on appeal, arguing that the trial court erred in various ways in denying its motions to intervene and to dismiss and/or deny confirmation of the arbitration award.

Finding that the trial court did not err, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On October 31, 2018, Loveland filed his initial petition against Austin asserting a claim for damages (the "Personal Injury Lawsuit"). In that petition, Loveland alleged that he was injured by Austin on or about June 11, 2017, when Austin negligently and recklessly stabbed Loveland in the back with a knife while Austin was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol. Loveland further alleged that he had significant permanent injuries from the incident and had incurred significant medical expenses and lost wages, and therefore requested damages. At the time of the stabbing, Austin's parents had a homeowner's insurance policy through Shelter; on December 18, 2018, Shelter declined to extend coverage to Austin or defend him against Loveland's personal injury claims based on the homeowner's insurance policy's terms, conditions, and exclusions, and based on the facts known and available to Shelter. After Shelter denied coverage, Loveland and Austin agreed to submit the personal injury claim to arbitration and entered into an agreement limiting Austin's personal liability pursuant to § 537.065 (the ".065 Agreement"). On April 25, 2019, the arbitrator entered an award in Loveland's favor for the amount of $9,095,206.76 (with a 7.5% post-judgment interest rate) after finding that Austin was indeed liable for the stabbing (the "Arbitration Award").

On June 4, 2019, Austin's attorney formally notified Shelter that Austin had entered into the .065 Agreement; Shelter then filed its motion to intervene in the still-pending Personal Injury Lawsuit on July 3, 2019. On July 15, 2019, Loveland thereafter filed his application to confirm the Arbitration Award in the Personal Injury Lawsuit, with Austin filing his response to that application on July 17, 2019. Neither Loveland nor Austin argued grounds for vacating or modifying the Arbitration Award. On August 5, 2019, the judge granted Shelter's motion to intervene, permitting Shelter to file a response to Loveland's application to confirm the Arbitration Award. Shelter opposed confirmation of the Arbitration Award. After hearing oral argument and further briefing on the application to confirm the Arbitration Award, the judge entered his one-page order denying the application on October 11, 2019, finding that there was "no existing controversy" such that Loveland and Austin could have properly pursued arbitration and that "confirmation of [Loveland's] collusive [A]rbitration [A]ward would be contrary to the 2017 amendments to Section 537.065 and the plain legislative intent shown by such

626 S.W.3d 720

amendments" (the "October 2019 Order").2 After being ordered by the court to "proceed with discovery," Loveland voluntarily dismissed the Personal Injury Lawsuit without prejudice on October 29, 2019.

On November 1, 2019, Loveland filed a new petition seeking confirmation of the Arbitration Award pursuant to § 435.400 (the "Confirmation Proceeding"). Shelter thereafter filed its motions to intervene and to dismiss and/or deny Loveland's petition to confirm the Arbitration Award on November 19, 2019. After several changes of judge were granted at the request of the parties, and after additional pleadings on Shelter's motions to intervene and to dismiss and/or deny confirmation of the Arbitration Award were filed, the trial court held a hearing on Shelter's motions on March 13, 2020.

On March 24, 2020, the trial court in the Confirmation Proceeding entered its judgment confirming the Arbitration Award pursuant to § 435.400, and denying Shelter's motions to intervene and to dismiss and/or deny confirmation of the Arbitration Award. In its judgment, the trial court specifically found that the October 2019 Order in the Personal Injury Lawsuit denying Loveland's application to confirm the Arbitration Award was "an interlocutory ruling in an ongoing proceeding and not a final determination of the merits." The court further found that:

[T]he language in the October 11, 2019 order, insofar as it references collusion and the lack of an existing controversy, is gratuitous and outside the scope of [Loveland's] Application to Confirm Arbitration Award, because this Court is not called upon to judge the merits of the Arbitration Award unless asked to do so by a party to the arbitration proceeding.

The trial court then stated that "the language in the October 11, 2019 order referencing collusion and the lack of an existing controversy between the parties was not and is not supported by either the evidence or the law."

The trial court went on to explain that, because Shelter refused to provide a defense for Austin without a reservation of rights, "Shelter forfeited its right to control the defense of the claims against ... Austin and that Austin was, thereafter, entitled under the law to enter into a Section 537.065 agreement to arbitrate the claims made against him by ... Loveland." The court therefore concluded that Shelter could not intervene in the present case pursuant to § 537.065, reasoning that § 537.065 was inapplicable to a proceeding on whether to confirm an arbitration award because such a proceeding is not a lawsuit.3 Thus, the trial court found that it was required to confirm the Arbitration Award pursuant to § 435.4004 , and that Shelter could not object to the confirmation of the Arbitration Award because it was not a party to the arbitration agreement or the arbitration proceedings. The court therefore granted Loveland's petition to confirm the Arbitration Award and

626 S.W.3d 721

entered judgment reflecting the award in Loveland's favor and against Austin, as decided by the arbitrator.

This appeal follows.

II. Discussion

Shelter raises nine points on appeal relating to the trial court's denials of Shelter's motions to intervene and to dismiss and/or deny Loveland's petition to confirm the Arbitration Award in the Confirmation Proceeding. We first address those points raising issues pertaining to Shelter's right to intervene (Points I, II, III, IV, and V) because they are dispositive of or affect some of Shelter's remaining points, and thereafter address Shelter's points arguing that the trial court erred in denying Shelter's motion to dismiss and/or deny Loveland's petition to confirm the Arbitration Award (Points VI, VII, VIII, and IX).

We also note at the outset of our discussion that, while this case presents issues of first impression for our Court related to the most recent version of § 537.0655 being applied to procedural facts involving arbitration, the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals has addressed those topics in several similar cases. Specifically, the Western District's decisions in Britt v. Otto, 577 S.W.3d 133 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019), Aguilar v. GEICO Cas. Co., 588 S.W.3d 195 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019), and Knight by & through Knight v. Knight, 609 S.W.3d 813 (Mo. App. W.D. 2020), each address some or all of the issues raised by Shelter in its appeal. While the Western District's decisions in those cases are not binding upon our Court, we consider the holdings in those cases to be instructive to the case at bar.

Standard of Review for Points I – V

A trial court's denial of intervention as a matter of right will be affirmed "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." Breitenfeld v. School Dist. of Clayton, 399 S.W.3d 816, 837 (Mo. banc 2013) (quoting Johnson v. State, 366 S.W.3d 11, 20 (Mo. banc 2012) ); see also Britt, 577 S.W.3d at 139. "Motions to intervene as a matter of right ... are typically decided based upon the motion, pleadings, counsel's arguments,...

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2 practice notes
  • Barnett v. Columbia Maint. Co., ED 109008
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 29, 2021
    ...2019), Aguilar v. GEICO Cas. Co. , 588 S.W.3d 195 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019), and this Court's recent decision, Loveland v. Austin , ED108859, 626 S.W.3d 716 (Mo. App. E.D. April 13, 2021).DiscussionPoints I and II: Intervention of Right In their first two points on appeal, Insurers allege the ci......
  • M.O. v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., WD84722
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 7, 2022
    ...by substantial evidence, is against the weight of the evidence, or erroneously declares or applies the law." Loveland v. Austin, 626 S.W.3d 716, 728 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021); see also § 435.440.2 (An appeal from an order confirming an arbitration award "shall be taken in the manner and to the s......
2 cases
  • Barnett v. Columbia Maint. Co., ED 109008
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 29, 2021
    ...2019), Aguilar v. GEICO Cas. Co. , 588 S.W.3d 195 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019), and this Court's recent decision, Loveland v. Austin , ED108859, 626 S.W.3d 716 (Mo. App. E.D. April 13, 2021).DiscussionPoints I and II: Intervention of Right In their first two points on appeal, Insurers allege the ci......
  • M.O. v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., WD84722
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 7, 2022
    ...by substantial evidence, is against the weight of the evidence, or erroneously declares or applies the law." Loveland v. Austin, 626 S.W.3d 716, 728 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021); see also § 435.440.2 (An appeal from an order confirming an arbitration award "shall be taken in the manner and to the s......

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