Neal v. Drennan, WD

Decision Date03 August 1982
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
Citation640 S.W.2d 132
PartiesJohn C. NEAL, Jr., Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Mary DRENNAN, et al., Defendants-Appellant. 32099.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Don Chapman, Jr., Chapman and Chapman, P.C., Chillicothe, for defendants-appellants.

Holliday & Holliday, David A. Koester, Harold L. Holliday, Kansas City, for plaintiff-respondent.


DIXON, Judge.

These are cross appeals. Plaintiff John C. Neal, Jr., has appealed from an order dismissing a defendant, L.O. Girdner, prior to trial. Defendant, Mary Drennan, has appealed from a judgment declaring a resulting trust in certain real estate.

The issue on the appeal of John C. Neal, Jr., as to the dismissal of defendant, L.O. Girdner, turns on the effect of a dismissal of a prior action between Neal and Girdner. The issue on the appeal of defendant, Mary Drennan, is the validity of a judgment declaring a resulting trust in real estate against her as a prior titleholder when the present titleholder is not a party.

Prior to a determination of those issues, a preliminary question must be resolved. The case was originally submitted to a division of this court. The division filed an opinion reversing and remanding the cause for a new trial. The divisional opinion tacitly recognized the pendency of the Neal appeal as to the defendant Girdner and further explicitly recognized that the issues were intertwined and of necessity had been briefed by the parties.

On the motion for rehearing, Girdner, for the first time, raised the issue of the viability of the Neal appeal contesting Girdner's dismissal from the case. The motion for rehearing was sustained, and the case was resubmitted to the present panel. After docketing but before argument, Girdner filed a belated motion to dismiss Neal's appeal. This motion must be addressed before turning to the merits of the case.

The motion to dismiss asserts that as an appellant Neal has failed to file either record on appeal or brief and, so the motion claims, has abandoned the appeal. The record on appeal is complete and sufficient for the consideration of both appeals. The briefs have addressed the substantive issues raised on both appeals. There has been no abandonment of the issue of the validity of the trial court order dismissing as to Girdner. In fact, two of the points contained in the brief of Mary Drennan assert the validity of the order dismissing Girdner from the case.

The court may dismiss an appeal for violation of the rules or take such other action as justice requires. Rule 84.08. The court frequently does not dismiss such appeals but as a matter of discretion undertakes review on the merits despite rule violations. This discretion arises from the principle that the law favors a disposition on the merits and the common sense view that the litigants should not be punished for the dereliction of lawyers. City of Jennings v. Turner, 585 S.W.2d 210 (Mo.App.1979). When as is the case here, the court's disposition of the merits of the litigation is not hampered by the rules violations, the discretion will be exercised to permit a review on the merits. Natoli v. Johnson, 490 S.W.2d 275 (Mo.App.1973). The motion to dismiss the appeal of Neal is overruled.

It is unnecessary to recite at length the complex fact situation. Only so much as is necessary to explicate the issues will be stated.

Neal was involved in a divorce dispute which had culminated in a decree giving his ex-wife a 40% interest in the land in question. There was also a judgment for support of three children. The ex-wife was threatening execution sale and the mortgage holder Girdner had threatened foreclosure. Girdner, Neal, and Neal's ex-wife met and, with the assistance of a lawyer, agreed to a modification of the divorce decree. Girdner paid $28,500 to the wife for a release of the 40% lien, and the child support was also decreased and the amount past due on child support released. Deeds to the several parcels of land were executed by Neal and his ex-wife to the defendant, Mary Drennan, who is single and Girdner's sister. These deeds were delivered to Girdner when he paid the funds to the wife and also paid a substantial amount of court costs.

These deeds conveyed a number of parcels of real estate. Thereafter, and at various dates in 1975 and in January, 1976, Mary Drennan conveyed to third parties some of these parcels of land by warranty deeds. The land conveyed by these deeds was not included in the judgment in this action. On March 3, 1975, Mary Drennan conveyed to Girdner by a quitclaim deed some acreage and lots. On March 12, 1976, Mary Drennan conveyed by General Warranty Deed other acreages to Girdner. These latter deeds transferred to Girdner the remainder of the land conveyed by John C. Neal and his former wife to Mary Drennan. It is the land described in these deeds which is included in the trial court's judgment. This was the only land claimed in the second amended petition to be subject to claim by John Neal. The second amended petition against Mary Drennan and Girdner as defendants alleged the March 12, 1976, deed to Girdner and requested that this deed be set aside and a resulting trust be declared vesting title in the plaintiff.

The defendant Girdner filed a motion to dismiss, setting up as a plea of res judicata two separate actions: first, a suit by John C. Neal v. L.O. Girdner in the Circuit Court of Livingston County, and second, an unlawful detainer suit by Mary Drennan v. John C. Neal in the Magistrate Court of Livingston County.

The trial court first overruled the motion and subsequently reversed that order and sustained the motion. These motions were heard by Judge Stubbs, the regular judge of the circuit. An abortive appeal of this order then ensued, culminating in a dismissal of the appeal.

The cause then went to trial before Judge Ronald Belt sitting as a special judge in Livingston County in May of 1980.

The court entered its judgment that a resulting trust be decreed in the tracts described in the two deeds from Mary Drennan to Girdner and directed her to make a conveyance of them to John C. Neal within thirty days. Upon failure to do so, the decree was to "have the effect and operation at law, and in equity, of such a conveyance and shall vest in plaintiff all title to said real property." The decree also "enjoined Mary Drennan and all persons claiming under her except plaintiff from asserting any estate, right, title, or interest in the real estate." The decree further directed the defendant, Mary Drennan, to make an accounting within 90 days of all the income she received "during the period of time she held said property."

The parties do not press the issue with respect to the magistrate court unlawful detainer action. The default judgment in favor of the plaintiff Mary Drennan in that action will not be further considered. It is sufficient to say that such an action could not have tried title between the parties. Barber v. Todd, 128 S.W.2d 290 (Mo.App.1939).

The action brought by John C. Neal against Girdner is the litigation upon which the parties have focused. In that suit, Neal asserted that Girdner had record title to the real estate in question which was obtained by fraud. A motion to make the petition more definite and certain was sustained, and the plaintiff Neal failed to plead. On motion of the defendant Girdner, the action was dismissed with prejudice.

Mary Drennan argues the judgment in the case was res judicata or that it collaterally estopped Neal and thus left no issues between Mary Drennan and Neal. This position...

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  • Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 30, 2015
    ...that "[w]hen title to real estate is in question, all claimants of record title are indispensable parties[,]" quoting Neal v. Drennan, 640 S.W.2d 132, 137 (Mo.App.W.D.1982). Rule 52.04(a) addresses the persons to be joined if feasible. Subsection (b) provides that if a party described in Ru......
  • Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Douglas L. Coverdell, & Coverdell Enters., Inc., SD32806
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
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    ..."[w]hen title to real estate is in question, all claimants of record title arePage 41 indispensable parties[,]'" quoting Neal v. Drennan, 640 S.W.2d 132, 137 (Mo. App. W.D. 1982). Rule 52.04(a) addresses the persons to be joined if feasible. Subsection (b) provides that if a party described......
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    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 6, 1994
    ...of the parties, as well as the surrounding circumstances, may be admitted and considered." 32 S.W.2d at 606. See also Neal v. Drennan, 640 S.W.2d 132 (Mo.App.1982), in which the court rejected the argument that "a resulting trust cannot arise from a deed absolute on its face which expresses......
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    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 30, 1989
    ...parties certainly may be raised by either one or all of the appellants, all parties below, or by us sua sponte. Neal v. Drennan, 640 S.W.2d 132, 136 (Mo.App.1982). Moreover, the issue of joining absentees was before the trial court during trial, and, if there is a failure to specify the rul......
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