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Dale v. Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

July 17, 2014

JUSTIN WAYNE DALE, Petitioner-Appellant,



C. LEE PIPKINS, Hartville, MO, for Appellant.

JOHN W. KOENIG JR, Sikeston, MO, for Respondent.




Page 144

Justin Wayne Dale (" Appellant" ) contests the circuit court's judgment upholding a final decision of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (" the Commission" ) affirming the Missouri Department of Transportation's (" MoDOT" ) decision to deny Appellant relocation assistance as a " displaced person" regarding a saw mill business he claims was displaced by the partial condemnation of a tract of land on which his business was located.

This appeal follows two other related appeals. In State ex rel. Mo. Hwy & Transp. Comm'n v. Dale, 309 S.W.3d 380, 382 (Mo. App. S.D. 2010) (" Dale I" ), we affirmed the judgment following a jury trial that awarded John and Marsha Dale, Appellant's parents, condemnation damages in the amount of $445,643.20 for 3.44 acres (" the taken land" ) of a 10.8 acre tract (" the property" ) owned by the Dales after the taken land was condemned " to facilitate highway improvements to U.S. Route 60[.]" [1] In Dale v. Rahn, 330 S.W.3d 107, 109 (Mo. App. S.D. 2010) (Dale II), we affirmed the Commission's denial of relocation assistance to John Dale (" Father" ) " because he did not meet Missouri's statutory definition of a 'displaced person[.]'" [2]

In the instant appeal, Appellant contends in three points that the Commission erred in denying his " claim for relocation assistance benefits on the ground that he was not a displaced person[.]" Point I asserts that no substantial evidence supported the finding that there had been a payment for the cost to cure the remainder. Point II contends the Commission erred in applying a cost to cure as an exception to relocation assistance eligibility given the property's status as commercial property, instead of residential property, in that a cost to cure was not a part of the right-of-way offer, and the remainder was

Page 145

landlocked. Point III claims the Commission erred in concluding that he was not a displaced person because a business must " remove its personal property from the remainder in order to be displaced" as Appellant's business " was discontinued as a result of the taking, and a discontinued business is not required to remove its personal property from the remainder in order to be eligible for relocation assistance benefits."

Because the Commission reached the correct result, we affirm.

Applicable Principles of Review

We borrow our statement of the applicable standard of review from Dale II:

Although the appeal is from the judgment of the circuit court, we review the action of the administrative agency. Albanna v. State Bd. of Registration for Healing Arts, 293 S.W.3d 423, 428 (Mo. banc 2009). " Article V, Section 18 of the Missouri Constitution articulates the standard of judicial review of administrative actions. On appeal, this Court is charged with determining whether the agency actions 'are authorized by law, and in cases in which a hearing is required by law, whether the same are supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record.'" Id. (quoting Mo. Const. art. V, section 18).
If the [Commission]'s ruling " is supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record ... the ruling will be affirmed, even though the evidence would also have supported a contrary determination." [ Lagud v. Kansas City Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 136 S.W.3d 786,] 791 n. 5. [ (Mo. banc 2004) ]. " We may not substitute our judgment on the evidence for that of the agency, and we must defer to the agency's determinations on the weight of the evidence and the credibility of witnesses." Roorda v. City of Arnold, 142 S.W.3d 786, 789 (Mo.App. W.D.2004) (citation and quotation marks omitted). We review questions of law de novo. Lombardi [ v. Dunlap ], 103 S.W.3d [786,] 790[ (Mo. App. W.D. 2003)].
Missouri Veterans' Comm'n v. Vanderhook, 290 S.W.3d 115, 119-20 (Mo.App. W.D.2009).
" We will not reverse the decision of an administrative agency that reaches the right result even if it gave a wrong or insufficient reason for its ruling." Ellis v. Missouri State Treasurer, 302 S.W.3d 217, 220 (Mo.App. S.D.2010). We should affirm if we could reach the same result based on the same evidence and without weighing evidence or assessing witness credibility.

Facts and Procedural Background

Up until 2003, Father had operated a scrag mill on the property to produce sawdust for charcoal makers. Dale II, 330 S.W.3d at 109. Appellant did not have a written lease with Father, but Appellant began operating his own saw mill on the property in 2000. In May 2006, negotiations for the purchase by MoDOT of the taken land failed, id., and the condemnation petition was filed on May 11, 2006. " [A] day or two" later, Father deeded the property to Appellant without requiring the payment of any money.[3] Appellant testified at the appeal hearing that the remainder was landlocked as a result of the taking.[4]

Page 146

He testified that he " sawed [his] last log in October of 2006 and continued to sell [his] existing lumber inventory until late December of 2006." Appellant testified that he " could not operate [his] business on [the remainder] after the acquisition."

Appellant's only personal property on the taken land at the time of the condemnation was " a Knuckleboom loader[,]" which was equipped with wheels, and Appellant moved it to the remainder using " a semi tractor." At the time of the hearing, Appellant did not recall what it cost him to move the Knuckleboom loader. Appellant testified that he had not relocated anything from the remainder and he had done nothing with the remainder.

Steve Shelton testified that he was the " right of way manager" on this matter, and he met with Appellant in September 2010 about his request for relocation assistance. MoDOT sought additional information from Appellant after that meeting, Appellant provided additional information in an October 2010 letter, and MoDOT informed Appellant in a December 2010 letter that he was " not eligible for relocation benefits[.] The letter also advised Appellant that if he disagreed with MoDOT's ...

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