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Kristen Nicole Properties v. Shafinia

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

October 4, 2016

KRISTEN NICOLE PROPERTIES, ET AL.; Appellant,
v.
KEVIN SHAFINIA, Respondent. LYLE ODO, Appellant,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Platte County, Missouri The Honorable James Walter Van Amburg, Judge

          Before: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge Presiding, James Edward Welsh, and Alok Ahuja, Judges

          James Edward Welsh, Judge

         Kristen Nicole Properties and Lyle Odo appeal the circuit court's judgment denying their request for an award of attorney's fees and litigation expenses in their lawsuit against Kevin Shafinia. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Background

         Lyle Odo is the president of Kristen Nicole Properties, Inc., ("KNP"), a Missouri corporation. The underlying conflict in this case arose over a certain parcel of land located in Platte County, to which KNP initially acquired title in August 2000.

         In 2008, KNP filed a lawsuit against Kevin Shafinia and others associated with him. It alleged that, in early 2005, without KNP's prior knowledge or consent, the defendants entered onto this land and began excavation, grading, and other construction activities, causing damage to the land. KNP sought various forms of relief for that damage.

         The parties eventually reached a settlement agreement, under which Shafinia and the other defendants agreed to pay KNP the sum of $25, 000 in exchange for KNP's agreement to transfer title of the land to Shafinia. On July 1, 2010, Odo executed a "Full and Final Settlement and Release" on behalf of KNP, formalizing the parties' agreement. Thereafter, the defendants paid KNP $25, 000, and Odo delivered a quitclaim deed to Shafinia's attorneys transferring title of the property to Shafinia. By agreement of the parties, the circuit court then dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice.

         After learning that the quitclaim deed to Shafinia had not been recorded, KNP filed it with the Recorder of Deeds in October 2010. Three months later, on January 11, 2011, Shafinia filed a quitclaim deed with the Recorder of Deeds transferring title to the same land to Odo, in his individual capacity. This was done without Odo's knowledge, consent, or involvement. Odo learned of the transfer in early November 2011 after receiving notices from the City of Kansas City demanding that he rectify City Code violations on the property.

         KNP and Odo (in his individual capacity) thereafter filed a lawsuit against Shafinia. The petition asserted four counts: Count I sought a declaratory judgment; Count II requested injunctive relief; Count III was for specific performance; and Count IV raised a breach of contract claim. Basically, the relief sought was for Shafinia to void the purported title transfer to Odo, to compel transfer of the title back to Shafinia, and to prohibit any future title transfers to KNP, to Odo, or to any person or entity associated with them.

         The circuit court granted Shafinia's motion for summary judgment on Counts III and IV. Then, in September 2015, Shafinia signed a document confessing judgment as to Counts I and II and for, among other things, "plaintiffs' reasonable attorney fees, litigation expenses, and costs incurred in this litigation to be found by the Court, if any."

         At a hearing on September 25, 2015, the parties agreed that Shafinia's confession of judgment resolved all issues except for the matter of attorney's fees. The Appellants submitted an "Attorney Fee and Expense Summary" for the court's aid in determining "what reasonable fees might be appropriate, " and Shafinia contested the requested fees and expenses. The court heard argument by the parties and then took the matter under advisement.

         In its initial Order and Judgment, the court granted the basic relief sought in Counts I and II and awarded $422 in court costs. The court declined to award attorney's fees and litigation expenses, noting that, "pursuant to the American Rule . . . each party bear[s] its own attorney's fees." Following a hearing on KNP and Odo's motion to amend the judgment, the court issued an Amended Judgment denying the motion, rejecting ...


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