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Rainey-Hicks v. Missouri Accreditation of Programs for Children & Youth

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

May 26, 2015

FLORENCE RAINEY-HICKS, Appellant,
v.
MISSOURI ACCREDITATION OF PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, ET AL., Respondents

Page 700

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri. The Honorable Kevin M.J. Crane, Judge.

Daniel R. Dunham, Columbia, MO, for appellant.

John A. Ruth and Alicia K. Turner, Jefferson City, MO, for respondents.

Before Division Two: Lisa White Hardwick, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Cynthia L. Martin, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Page 701

Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

Florence Rainey-Hicks (" Rainey-Hicks" ) appeals from the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Missouri Accreditation of Programs for Children and Youth (" Missouri Accreditation" ) and Pamela Speer (" Speer" ) in a lawsuit filed following revocation of accreditation of a daycare facility owned by Rainey-Hicks. Rainey-Hicks asserts that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because: (1) a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding the existence of a contract and a fiduciary relationship between Rainey-Hicks and Missouri Accreditation; (2) a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding Rainey-Hicks's business expectancy in receiving accreditation from Missouri Accreditation and regarding an intentional interference with that expectancy; (3) a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding Missouri Accreditation's false representation regarding its fees; and (4) as a matter of law, Missouri Accreditation's status as a state actor is not a necessary element to a common law due process violation claim. We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background[1]

Missouri Accreditation is a non-profit organization recognized by the Missouri Department of Social Services as an accrediting authority for child care providers in the state.[2] To receive accreditation, a child care provider must complete a seven-step process that includes both the review of an application and an inspection of the child care facility by a Missouri Accreditation review team. If the child care facility receives a satisfactory report from the review team, the child care program is eligible for three years of accreditation by Missouri Accreditation subject to the payment of prescribed fees. The prescribed fees for a child care program with a licensed capacity of 1-60 children are $1,075. These fees include: a $325 fee to set up an online account; a $150 application fee; a $300 annual accreditation fee; and a $300 review team fee. The annual accreditation fee is due yearly on the anniversary of accreditation.

Page 702

Rainey-Hicks is the sole proprietor and owner of A World of Discoveries Daycare, a child care facility in Columbia, Missouri. The facility was accredited by Missouri Accreditation for a three-year term from March 28, 2008, to March 28, 2011. Prior to expiration of this term, Rainey-Hicks applied for renewal of the facility's accreditation. A Missouri Accreditation review team visited Rainey-Hicks's facilities on February 22, 2011. The review revealed several deficiencies. Though the deficiencies were not resolved by March 17, 2011, Missouri Accreditation elected not to deny the renewal request but to instead afford Rainey-Hicks a twelve-month conditional extension of her accreditation as she worked to achieve the standards required to secure a full three-year renewal accreditation. The conditional extension was subject to several written requirements: (1) submission to unannounced visits by the Missouri Accreditation staff during that twelve-month period; (2) completion of professional development training in the areas of early childhood free play and free choice; (3) hand washing upon a child's arrival; and (4) improvements with no serious incidents that pose harm to children in the twelve-month period. The conditional extension was also subject to Rainey-Hicks payment of an extension fee of $300 and " all travel expenses" for the Missouri Accreditation review team. A report prepared by Missouri Accreditation and provided to Rainey-Hicks specifically stated that " Missouri Accreditation reserves the right to hold accreditation certificates until all fees are paid in full."

On January 26, 2012, Missouri Accreditation determined that Rainey-Hicks was eligible for accreditation for the two-year balance of the renewal term she had applied for, subject to Rainey-Hicks's payment of $200 to reimburse Missouri Accreditation for travel costs incurred in connection with unannounced visits by the review team during the conditional extension term and of $300 for the annual accreditation fee. Missouri Accreditation's decision was explained to Rainey-Hicks in a face-to-face meeting with Speer on February 2, 2012. During that meeting, Speer gave Rainey-Hicks an invoice for the required fees. Rainey-Hicks did not pay the fees by the expiration date of her conditional extension, March 28, 2012.

On March 7, 2012, and on April 6, 2012, Missouri Accreditation sent Rainey-Hicks second and third notices of the amounts due via e-mail. The fourth and final notice was e-mailed by Speers to Rainey-Hicks on April 24, 2012. That notice stated that the invoice " MUST BE PAID IN FULL BY April 26, 2012," and advised Rainey-Hicks that the Missouri Accreditation Board would be meeting on that date where action would likely be taken if fees were not paid. Rainey-Hicks paid no portion of the outstanding invoice by April 26, 2012. Thus, Missouri Accreditation decided on that date that it would not extend accreditation for A World of Discoveries Daycare for the remaining two years of the renewal term. Missouri Accreditation informed Rainey-Hicks of its decision by certified mail.

Rainey-Hicks wrote a $500 check to Missouri Accreditation on May 3, 2012. Missouri Accreditation cashed the check and retained the $200 for reimbursement of travel expenses but remitted a $300 check back to Rainey-Hicks with the notation " Refund for 2012-13 Annual Fee."

Rainey-Hicks appealed Missouri Accreditation's decision not to renew her facility's accreditation on May 23, 2012. On July 12, 2012, Missouri Accreditation ...


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