Murphree v. Lakeshore Estates, LLC, ED 109644

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation636 S.W.3d 622
Docket NumberNo. ED 109644,ED 109644
Parties Sofia MURPHREE, Individually and as Next Friend of Breanna Murphree-Dasch, a Minor, Appellants, v. LAKESHORE ESTATES, LLC, Respondent.
Decision Date14 December 2021

636 S.W.3d 622

Sofia MURPHREE, Individually and as Next Friend of Breanna Murphree-Dasch, a Minor, Appellants,

No. ED 109644

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION ONE.

Filed: December 14, 2021

Nicholas G. Higgins, A & L Licker Law Firm, 1861 Sherman Road, St. Charles, MO 63303, for appellants.

Chris Lang, Michael S. Hamlin, 1795 Clarkson Rd., Suite 230, Chesterfield, MO 63017, for respondent.


John P. Torbitzky, J.

Sofia Murphree, individually and as next friend of Breanna Murphree-Dasch, ("Appellants") appeals from the circuit court's judgment granting Respondent Lakeshore Estates, LLC's motion to set aside a default judgment. Each of Appellants’ four points on appeal falls significantly short of the minimum standards set by Rule 84.04.1 These deficiencies prevent this Court from engaging in meaningful review of the appeal. As a result, the appeal is dismissed.

Appellants’ Briefing Deficiencies

Rule 84.04 sets forth the minimum requirements for appellate briefing. Compliance with those requirements is mandatory. Bennett v. Taylor , 615 S.W.3d 96, 98 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020). An appellant must adhere to the rules of appellate procedure

636 S.W.3d 624

in order for this Court to review the appeal. See Burgan v. Newman , 618 S.W.3d 712, 714 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021) (internal citation omitted). "Failure to comply with the rules of appellate procedure is a proper ground for dismissing an appeal." Brown v. Ameristar Casino Kansas City, Inc. , 211 S.W.3d 145, 146 (Mo. App. W.D. 2007).

It is with great hesitation that we dismiss an appellant's brief for failure to comply with Rule 84.04. "Our preference is to decide an appeal on the merits where disposition is not hampered by rule violations and the argument is readily understandable." Bennett , 615 S.W.3d at 98. While this Court has the discretion to review a noncompliant brief, we will do so only when "we can ascertain the gist of an appellant's arguments, notwithstanding minor shortcomings in briefing." Unifund CCR Partners v. Myers , 563 S.W.3d 740, 743 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018) (emphasis added). However, when the deficiencies affect our ability to understand and adequately address the claims of error, the brief preserves nothing for review. Hamilton v. Archer , 545 S.W.3d 377, 381 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018).

Rule 84.04 is not merely a rule of technicalities. State v. Myers , 619 S.W.3d 578, 585 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021). Instead, it serves several necessary functions. Importantly, compliance with Rule 84.04 ensures that the opposing party is adequately informed of the precise matters in contention and informs this Court of the issues for review. Id. This permits this Court to conduct a meaningful review of the issues before it and ensures that opposing positions will have adequate representation, which is essential to our adversary system.

Perhaps more importantly, an appellant's compliance with Rule 84.04 is necessary to ensure that this Court retains its role as a neutral arbiter. Deficient briefing runs the risk of forcing this Court to assume the role of advocate by requiring us to sift through the legal record, reconstruct the statement of facts, and craft a legal argument on the appellant's behalf. Burgan , 618 S.W.3d at 714-15. This requires this Court to speculate as to the facts and arguments that may have been asserted. Id. at 714. If this Court cannot reach the merits without "supplementing the appellant's legal arguments," then nothing has been preserved for review. Carmen v. Olsen , 611 S.W.3d 368, 371 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020).

Here, numerous deficiencies in Appellants’ brief make it impossible for this Court to meaningfully review the case. First,...

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