Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
In the Adoption of K.M.W. and N.A.W. D.S. and R.S., Intervenors-Respondents.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF NEWTON COUNTY Honorable James V.
W. LYNCH, P.J.
paternal grandparents ("Paternal Grandparents") of
K.M.W. and N.A.W. petitioned the trial court for adoption of
both minors. The maternal grandparents ("Maternal
Grandparents") moved for and were granted leave by the
trial court to intervene because their "rights to
visit" would be terminated by the adoption. Following a
hearing, the trial court denied the petition for adoption.
Paternal Grandparents timely appealed, asserting two points
of trial court error in granting intervention and three
points of trial court error in denying adoption. Finding no
merit in any point, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
ease of analysis, we take Paternal Grandparents' points
addressing intervention out of order.
Two: No Prejudicial Error in Allowing Permissive
Grandparents' second point contends that the trial court
committed reversible error in granting Maternal
Grandparents' motion to intervene because Maternal
Grandparents did not meet the requirements for permissive
intervention under Rule 52.12(b).
Court reviews permissive intervention for abuse of
discretion. Intervention generally should be allowed with
considerable liberality." Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist.
of Clayton, 399 S.W.3d 816, 837 (Mo. banc 2013) (quoting
Johnson v. State, 366 S.W.3d 11, 20 (Mo. banc 2012)
(internal quotations and citations omitted)). Our review
includes whether an appellant has demonstrated that prejudice
resulted from the alleged abuse of discretion. Comm. for
Educ. Equal. v. State, 294 S.W.3d 477, 487 (Mo. banc
2009) (trial court error in permitting defendant-intervenors
to join case "does not merit reversal unless Plaintiffs
Grandparents' second point contains no allegation or
contention that they suffered any prejudice arising from the
trial court permitting Maternal Grandparents' permissive
intervention. Furthermore, we have carefully reviewed
Paternal Grandparents' argument under this point and
cannot find any argument asserting, much less demonstrating,
that they were prejudiced by such intervention.
without deciding, that the trial court erred in granting
permissive intervention as Paternal Grandparents contend,
failure to demonstrate prejudice is fatal to Paternal
Grandparents' point because "appellate review is for
prejudice, not mere error." Heritage Warranty Ins.,
RRG, Inc. v. Swiney, 244 S.W.3d 290, 294 (Mo.App. 2008).
Rule 84.13(b) does not permit this court to reverse a trial
court's judgment unless we find "that error was
committed by the trial court against the appellant
materially affecting the merits of the action."
Rule 84.13(b) (emphasis added). As a result of Paternal
Grandparents' failure to allege or show prejudice, we
cannot conclude that the trial court's ruling
"materially affect[ed] the merits of the action."
Rule 84.13(b). "Because reversible error cannot be
demonstrated without a showing of prejudice, Missouri courts
may hold a party has abandoned an issue where the party fails
to address the issue of prejudice in his or her brief."
Matter of Hasty, 446 S.W.3d 336, 339 (Mo.App. 2014).
we ex gratia observe the following from our review
of the trial court record. As the proponents of the adoption,
Paternal Grandparents had the burden to prove that the
welfare of K.M.W. and N.A.W. demanded the granting of the
adoption, section 453.030.1, and that it was "fit and proper that
such adoption be made[, ]" section
453.080.1(8). At the hearing on
their adoption petition, Paternal Grandparents had the
initial opportunity to present evidence during which they
presumably adduced all the evidence they believed relevant to
the issues in the adoption and then rested their case. No
relevant evidence adduced by Paternal Grandparents was
excluded by the trial court at the behest of Maternal
Grandparents. Immediately after Paternal Grandparents rested
their case, the trial court denied their petition for
adoption. Maternal Grandparents adduced no evidence at the
adoption hearing outside of their cross examination of
Paternal Grandparents' witnesses. Those cross
examinations produced only evidence that was relevant to the
adoption issues. Because the trial court denied the requested
adoption, our standard of review requires us to conclude that
the trial court did not sufficiently credit Paternal
Grandparents' evidence favoring adoption. Viewed in this
light, there is no basis upon which to conclude that
remanding the case and removing Maternal Grandparents as
parties would materially affect the merits of the action.
Accordingly, we cannot conclude that the trial court
committed reversible-prejudicial-error in allowing Maternal
Grandparents to intervene under Rule 52.12(b). Paternal
Grandparents' second point is denied.
One: Intervention as a Matter of Right is Moot
Grandparents' first point contends that the trial court
committed reversible error in granting Maternal
Grandparents' motion to intervene as a matter of right
under Rule 52.12(a). Because we found no reversible error in
the trial court allowing Maternal Grandparents to
permissively intervene under Rule 52.12(b), the issue of
whether their intervention was correct as a matter of right
is moot and need not be addressed.
review adoption cases using the well-known standard of
Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo. banc 1976).
In re C.G.L., 63 S.W.3d 693, 696 (Mo.App. 2002). As
such, we will uphold the judgment of the trial court
"unless there is no substantial evidence to support it,
unless it is against the weight of the evidence, unless it
erroneously declares the law, or unless it erroneously
applies the law." Murphy, 536 S.W.2d at 32.
"[E]ach Murphy ground is a separate, distinct
legal claim." Smith v. Great Am. Assur. Co.,
436 S.W.3d 700, 703 (Mo.App. 2014). "The application of
this standard of review varies depending on the burden of
proof applicable at trial and the error claimed on appeal to
challenge the judgment." Pearson v. Koster, 367
S.W.3d 36, 43 (Mo. banc 2012).
defer to the trial court's determinations of witness
credibility and factual issues. In re K.K.J., 984
S.W.2d 548, 552 (Mo.App. 1999). All facts and the reasonable
inferences that can be drawn therefrom are examined in the
light most favorable to the trial court's judgment.
In re C.J.G., 75 S.W.3d 794, 797 (Mo.App. 2002). All
contrary evidence and inferences are disregarded. In re
Adoption of F.C., 274 S.W.3d 478, 482 (Mo.App. 2008).
ease of analysis, we also take Paternal Grandparents'
points addressing denial of adoption out of
Five: Denial of Adoption Need Not be Supported by ...