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First National Bank of Dieterich v. Pointe Royale Property Owners' Association, Inc.

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

April 4, 2017

FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF DIETERICH, f/k/a FIRST STATE BANK OF RED BUD, Respondent,
v.
POINTE ROYALE PROPERTY OWNERS' ASSOCIATION, INC., Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF TANEY COUNTY The Honorable Tony Williams, Judge.

          PAUL C. WILSON, JUDGE.

         Defendant Pointe Royale Property Owners' Association (the "POA") appeals from a partial judgment entered in favor of Plaintiff First National Bank of Dieterich, f/k/a First State Bank of Red Bud (the "Bank"). The trial court resolved the Bank's first count in its favor, declaring that the Bank was not obligated to pay past due assessments by the POA on properties the Bank purchased at a foreclosure sale. The trial court certified this order for immediate appeal under Rule 74.01(b) and reserved judgment on Bank's second count, i.e., slander of title, until after this appeal of the Bank's first count is concluded. Because the trial court's partial judgment did not dispose of a distinct judicial unit, however, it was not a "final judgment" for purposes of section 512.020(5), RSMo Supp. 2004. Accordingly, this Court has no authority to review this judgment, and the Bank's appeal must be dismissed.

         Background

         The Pointe Royale subdivision is a common interest community governed by the POA and a recorded declaration of covenants (the "POA Declaration"). The POA Declaration governs the relationship between the developer of the community and all residential and condominium owners in the community. Under the POA Declaration, the POA is entitled to collect assessments from all property owners for the benefit of the community. Article X, section 1 of the POA Declaration provides that "each Owner of a Lot … shall be deemed to covenant and agree to pay to the Association: (1) Annual Assessments, and (2) Special Assessments."

         To ensure these assessments are paid, the POA Declaration gives the POA two separate and distinct remedies: (1) to place a lien on the property in the amount of the assessment, or (2) to sue the property owner directly to collect the assessment as a personal obligation. Article X, section 7 of the POA Declaration states: "If Assessments have become delinquent, such Assessments shall bind property in the hands of the then Owner, his heirs, devisees, personal representatives and assigns. The personal obligation of the Owner to pay such Assessments shall remain his personal obligation and shall pass to successors in title."

         The Bank provided loans to owners of eight condominium units within the Pointe Royale subdivision. Each of these loans was secured by a deed of trust. In time, all eight of these owners became delinquent on their loans to the Bank and failed to make timely payments on the POA's assessments. As provided in the POA Declaration, the POA filed liens against all eight properties for the past due assessments. The Bank foreclosed on its deeds of trust and - at the subsequent foreclosure sale - purchased all eight properties. Thereafter, the POA demanded payment from the Bank for all new assessments on the properties it purchased. The POA also demanded the Bank pay all assessments that were past due at the time the Bank purchased the properties at the foreclosure sale.

         The Bank paid all of the assessments but filed a lawsuit against the POA. In its lawsuit, the Bank sought relief in two counts: (1) a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the Bank did not owe the assessments that were past due when it purchased the properties and, therefore, that the Bank was entitled to a refund of the amounts it had paid; and (2) an action for monetary damages caused by the POA's slander of the Bank's title to the eight properties.

         On June 28, 2013, the Bank's lawsuit was tried to the bench. As to Count I, the trial court declared that the liens regarding the POA's pre-foreclosure assessments had been extinguished by the foreclosure. In addition, the trial court declared there was no basis to hold the Bank personally liable for those assessments and, therefore, entered judgment ordering the POA to refund those amounts to the Bank. As to Count II, the trial court noted the Bank had stated a cause of action for slander of title but adjudged that, "[p]ursuant to the agreement of counsel, if the Judgment entered herein is appealed, the Court will reserve Count II of [the Bank's] petition for separate trial depending on the outcome of this case on appeal." The POA timely appealed the judgment on Count I, and this Court granted transfer following an opinion in the court of appeals.

         Analysis

         This Court has an obligation, acting sua sponte if necessary, to determine its authority to hear the appeals that come before it. Gibson v. Brewer, 952 S.W.2d 239, 244 (Mo. banc 1997). "'The right to appeal is purely statutory and, where a statute does not give a right to appeal, no right exists.'" Buemi v. Kerckhoff, 359 S.W.3d 16, 20 (Mo. banc 2011) (quoting State ex rel. Coca-Cola Co. v. Nixon, 249 S.W.3d 855, 859 (Mo. banc 2008)). Though there are many statutes governing the right to appeal, the only statute even potentially applicable to the present case is section 512.020(5). This statute provides, in relevant part:

Any party to a suit aggrieved by any judgment of any trial court in any civil cause from which an appeal is not prohibited by the constitution, nor clearly limited in special statutory proceedings, may take his or her appeal to a court having appellate jurisdiction from any ... (5) Final judgment in the case or from any special order after final judgment in the cause ....

§ 512.020 (emphasis added).

         Generally, a final judgment is defined as one that resolves "all issues in a case, leaving nothing for future determination." Transit Cas. Co. ex rel. Pulitzer Publ'g Co. v.Transit Cas. Co. ex rel. Intervening Emps.,43 S.W.3d 293, 298 (Mo. banc 2001) (internal citation omitted). As a result, any judgment that resolves only part of a claim, or that resolves some of the claims pending in a lawsuit but ...


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