Motormax Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Knight

Decision Date18 August 2015
Docket NumberNo. ED 102257,ED 102257
Citation474 S.W.3d 164
Parties Motormax Financial Services Corporation, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. Arnold Knight, Defendant/Respondent.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

474 S.W.3d 164

Motormax Financial Services Corporation, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
Arnold Knight, Defendant/Respondent.

No. ED 102257

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION TWO .

Filed: August 18, 2015
Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to Supreme Court Denied October 8, 2015
Application for Transfer Denied November 24, 2015


Gregory T. Cook, McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A., St. Louis, for Appellant.

David R. Angle, Matthew C. Wilson—Co–Counsel, Angle Wilson Law, LLC, Columbia, Dale K. Irwin—Co–Counsel,

474 S.W.3d 166

Gina M. Chiala—Co–Counsel, Slough, Connealy, Irwin & Madden LLC, Kansas City, for Respondent.

Philip M. Hess, Judge

Introduction

Motormax Financial Services Corporation (Motormax) appeals the denial of its motion to compel arbitration of a counterclaim asserted against it by Arnold Knight after Motormax repossessed his vehicle and filed a collection action against him. In two points, Motormax claims the trial court erred in denying its motion based on its finding that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable and that Motormax waived its right to arbitration. We affirm.

Factual Background

On June 28, 2012, Arnold Knight entered into a contract with Motormax to finance a title loan that was secured by his Ford F–150 truck. The annual percentage rate on the loan was 93.5%. During the loan closing, which was videotaped and conducted by a Motormax representative, Mr. Knight was asked to sign an arbitration agreement (Agreement). The Agreement provided that any claims or disputes between the parties "shall be settled by binding arbitration." The Agreement also gave Motormax the right to repossess Mr. Knight's vehicle if he failed to comply with the provisions of the contract and pursue its claims in court without waiving arbitration. In April 2013, Motormax repossessed Mr. Knight's vehicle after he allegedly defaulted on the contract. In September 2013, Motormax filed a collection action in the trial court against Mr. Knight seeking $1,820.85 (the alleged balance due on the contract), plus interest, costs, and attorney's fees. In February 2014, Mr. Knight filed an answer and a class action counterclaim, alleging that Motormax had violated the notice requirements of §§ 400.9–611 –400.9–614 RSMo,1 in connection with the repossession of his vehicle. The counterclaim also alleged that Motormax had violated the Merchandising Practices Act, §§ 407.010 et seq.

In April 2014, Motormax filed a motion to compel arbitration of the counterclaim, which the trial court denied on October 10, 2014. Less than a month later, Motormax dismissed its collection action against Mr. Knight without prejudice. Motormax now appeals the trial court's denial of its motion to compel arbitration.

Motion to Dismiss

Before addressing the merits of the appeal, we consider Mr. Knight's contention that we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal because it was not timely filed. In his motion to dismiss the appeal, taken with the case, Mr. Knight asserts that the appeal is untimely because Motormax did not file its notice of appeal within ten days after the trial court entered its "Order and Judgment" denying the motion to compel arbitration. Specifically, he claims the judgment was final and appealable on October 10, 2014, the day it was entered, pursuant to § 435.440.1. Motormax counters that the ten-day time period for filing its appeal did not begin to run until the trial court's judgment became final thirty days later on November 9, 2014. We agree.

An appeal from the denial of a motion to compel arbitration is expressly authorized under § 435.440.1 of the Missouri Uniform Arbitration Act. Dunn Indus. Group, Inc. v. City of Sugar Creek, 112 S.W.3d 421, 427 (Mo. banc 2003). The parties do not dispute that Motormax had the right to

474 S.W.3d 167

appeal the denial of its motion to compel arbitration under § 435.440.1. Rather, their dispute focuses solely on the finality of the trial court's judgment for purposes of determining the time period within which Motormax had to file its appeal.

Section 435.440.2 provides that "the appeal shall be taken in the manner and to the same extent as from orders or judgments in a civil action." "When statutory language is clear, we must give effect to the language as written." McCormack v. Capital Elect. Const. Co., Inc., 159 S.W.3d 387, 403 (Mo.App.W.D.2004). "A court may not add words or requirements by implication to a statute that is not ambiguous." Id. Giving effect to the plain language of the statute, it is clear that § 435.440.2 instructs that the rules of civil procedure apply to appealable orders under § 435.440.1.

In exercising its supervisory authority over the courts, the Missouri Supreme Court has adopted rules relating to the procedural aspects of appealability. One of these rules is Rule 74.01(a), which defines what constitutes a "judgment," and which states:

"Judgment" as used in these rules includes a decree and any order from which an appeal lies. A judgment is rendered when entered. A judgment is entered when a writing signed by the judge and denominated ‘judgment’ or ‘decree’ is filed.

The Missouri Supreme Court's decision in Spiece v. Garland, 197 S.W.3d 594 (Mo. banc 2006) offers guidance regarding the applicability of Rule 74.01(a) to appealable orders. In Spiece, the Court addressed the appealability of orders and judgments listed under § 512.020,2 in finding that while the statute grants the substantive right to an appeal, it does not address the procedural requirements for appealing such orders and judgments, and therefore, must be read in conjunction with Rule 74.01(a). Id. at 595–96. Specifically, the Court clarified that in accordance with Rule 74.01(a), there can be "no order from which an appeal lies " unless the decree or order is entered and denominated a "judgment." Id. at 595 (emphasis added). Accordingly, by adopting Rule 74.01(a), the Court made clear its intention to require that trial courts designate every appealable order a "judgment" or decree, "even if the order is not equivalent to a judgment in the traditional sense of the word." Id. Here, the denial of the motion to compel arbitration was signed by the trial court and denominated a "judgment" when entered. As such, we conclude that the trial court's decision constitutes a judgment "from which an appeal lies" under Rule 74.01(a).

We find the Spiece Court's reasoning instructive. That is, while § 435.440.1 grants the substantive right to appeal the denial of a motion to compel arbitration, the statute does not contain any procedural requirements for determining when such orders are final for purposes of calculating the time period for filing an appeal. As such, we look to the rules of civil procedure. Rule 81.04(a) requires the filing of an appeal no later than ten days after the judgment becomes "final." Rule 81.05(a) governs the finality of a judgment for purposes of appeal and states, in pertinent part:

1) A judgment becomes final at the expiration of thirty days after its entry if no timely authorized after-trial motion is filed.[3 ]
474 S.W.3d 168

The judgment from which Motormax seeks to appeal was entered by the trial court on October 10, 2014, and became final thirty days later—on November 9, 2014. Rule 81.05(a). To be timely, Motormax had to file its notice of appeal within ten days after that date, or by November 19, 2014. Rule 81.04(a). The...

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