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Morphis v. Bass Pro Group, LLC

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

April 14, 2017

TOMMY MORPHIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BASS PRO GROUP, LLC, TRACKER MARINE, LLC, and KEN BURROUGHS, Defendants-Respondents.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Mark A. Powell

         REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS

          GARY W. LYNCH, P.J. JUDGE

         Tommy Morphis ("Morphis") filed this lawsuit against Bass Pro Group, LLC ("Bass Pro"), Tracker Marine, LLC ("Tracker Marine"), and Ken Burroughs ("Burroughs") (collectively, "Defendants") after Defendants failed to establish a "compensation plan and pay package" for Morphis's benefit. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, and Morphis brings 11 points for our review on appeal. Morphis's first eight points concern the propriety of the summary judgment granted in favor of Defendants. The remaining points concern actions taken by the lower court related to discovery by Morphis from Defendants before summary judgment was granted. Because his tenth point is dispositive, we reverse the trial court's judgment on this point and remand for further proceedings.

         Procedural Background

         Morphis's petition, filed June 27, 2014, asserted 11 counts against Defendants. On January 14, 2015, [1] before any discovery was commenced by any party, Defendants filed a Motion for Protective Order to Limit Discovery. That motion alleged that these 11 counts were identical to a lawsuit that Morphis had filed against Bass Pro and Tracker Marine in 2010 and voluntarily dismissed on June 27, 2014. Defendants attached several exhibits to their motion purporting to be documents from the first lawsuit. Morphis filed a response requesting that the motion be denied.

         On February 19, 2015, the parties' attorneys appeared before Judge Powell and the trial court heard argument of counsel on the motion for protective order. The trial court took the motion under advisement. On February 27, 2015, by docket entry, Judge Powell entered an order stating:

AFTER CONSIDERATION, DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER TO LIMIT DISCOVERY IS SUSTAINED IN ALL RESPECTS EXCEPT THAT PLAINTIFF IS NOT LIMITED AT THIS TIME, AS TO THE WRITTEN DISCOVERY HE CAN PROPOUND TO NEW DEFENDANT KEN BURROUGHS. HOWEVER, THE COURT RESERVES THE RIGHT TO LIMIT WRITTEN DISCOVERY TO DEFENDANT BURROUGHS IF SUCH DISCOVERY BECOMES REDUNDANT OR OPPRESSIVE. THE COURT SPECIFICALLY ADOPTS JUDGE FITZSIMMONS DOCKET ENTRY OF 12-12-13.

         Judge Powell later granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants based on the conclusion that there was no genuine issue of material fact and that Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Morphis timely appeals.

          Discussion

         Because Morphis's ninth, tenth, and eleventh points concern actions taken before summary judgment was entered and could impact the material, undisputed facts set forth in the summary judgment record, we begin our review of Morphis's appeal with those points.

         Point Ten-Protective Order Limiting Discovery

         Morphis's tenth point contends:

The trial court erred and abused its discretion in entering an order prohibiting Plaintiff from directing any discovery to Bass Pro Group and Tracker Marine because the trial court abused its discretion and denied due process in entering the order in that discovery was never completed in the 2010 case, the 2010 case and the filings therein were a nullity, the trial court did not have any relevant discovery requests from the 2010 case before it when it entered its ...

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