Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF DUNKLIN COUNTY Honorable Stephen R.
W. SHEFFIELD, C.J. JUDGE
Cecil ("Defendant") appeals from the trial
court's summary judgment in favor of Home Service Oil Co.
("Plaintiff") on the basis that Defendant was
judicially estopped from denying Plaintiff's claims
because Defendant did not dispute Plaintiff's claim in a
previous bankruptcy proceeding. Applying a de novo
standard of review, see ITT Commercial Finance Corp. v.
Mid-America Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376
(Mo. banc 1993), we reverse the trial court's judgment
because Plaintiff did not meet its burden under Rule
74.04. Specifically, Plaintiff's statement of
uncontroverted material facts did not demonstrate that there
was no dispute about each of the facts supporting each
element of the claims upon which Plaintiff would have had the
burden of proof at trial.
following information is drawn from Plaintiff's statement
of uncontroverted material facts as supplemented by the
docket sheets and pleadings in this case, viewed in the light
most favorable to Defendant. See ITT, 854 S.W.2d at
376. At some time prior to the litigation in this case,
Defendant executed a credit agreement with Plaintiff under
which Plaintiff agreed to provide fuel products to Defendant
for resale at Defendant's convenience store. In August
2014, Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging claims of action on
account and unjust enrichment in order to recover $32, 359.31
due under the agreement, plus interest and attorneys'
October 2014, Defendant filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition
requesting discharge of multiple debts including the one
Plaintiff alleged was owed. Defendant's bankruptcy
discharge was denied.
February 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment
in the present action, arguing Defendant was "judicially
estopped from denying the claim which she admitted was
undisputed and valid in other judicial proceedings." The
trial court granted that motion. This appeal followed.
raises three points on appeal. Each of these points discusses
one of the three factors courts use to evaluate claims of
judicial estoppel. However, judicial estoppel does not
control the outcome of this appeal. Rather, the trial
court's judgment must be reversed because Plaintiff did
not meet its burden under Rule 74.04 for summary judgment.
review of a summary judgment "is essentially de
novo." ITT, 854 S.W.2d at 376. That is,
"[t]he criteria on appeal for testing the propriety of
summary judgment are no different from those which should be
employed by the trial court to determine the propriety of
sustaining the motion initially." Id. "As
the trial court's judgment is founded on the record
submitted and the law, an appellate court need not defer to
the trial court's order granting summary judgment."
language of Rule 74.04 establishes the boundaries of
Missouri's summary judgment practice." Id.
at 380. "The key to summary judgment is the undisputed
right to judgment as a matter of law; not simply the absence
of a fact question." Id. Moreover, under the
rule, "[a] 'claimant' must establish that there
is no genuine dispute as to those material facts upon which
the 'claimant' would have had the burden of
persuasion at trial." Id. at 381. Importantly,
"[w]hen considering appeals from summary judgments, the
Court will review the record in the light most favorable to
the party against whom judgment was entered."
Id. at 376. And, "[w]e accord the non-movant
the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the
also look to the elements of the claims pleaded in the
petition and determine whether the facts in the statement of
uncontroverted material facts meet those elements to
ascertain whether Plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Here, Plaintiff sought relief under two
theories: action on account and unjust enrichment. The
elements of a successful claim for action on account are
"that 1) defendant requested plaintiff to furnish
merchandise or services, 2) plaintiff accepted
defendant's offer by furnishing such merchandise or
services, and 3) the charges were reasonable."
Helmtec Indus., Inc. v. Motorcycle Stuff, Inc., 857
S.W.2d 334, 335 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993). "To establish the
elements of an unjust enrichment claim, the plaintiff must
prove that (1) he conferred a benefit on the defendant; (2)
the defendant appreciated the benefit; and (3) the defendant
accepted and retained the benefit under inequitable and/or
unjust circumstances." Howard v. Turnbull, 316
S.W.3d 431, 436 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010). Plaintiff's
statement of uncontroverted material facts did not show the
elements of either of these claims without the need for
inferences in its favor.
Plaintiff's statement of uncontroverted material facts