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Andes v. Dickey

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

August 29, 2017

ANN N. DICKEY, Appellant.


          Before: Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Presiding Judge, Karen King Mitchell, Judge and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge


         Ann Dickey ("Dickey") appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County in favor of Elizabeth Andes ("Andes") on Dickey's claim for breach of contract and Andes's claim for specific performance based on the parties' written agreement regarding a jointly-owned residence. On appeal, Dickey argues that the trial court erred in concluding that the buyout provision in the agreement was satisfied, that she no longer had an interest in the home, and that Andes's obligations under the agreement had terminated. Dickey's first point is granted, and the judgment is reversed in part and remanded for additional proceedings consistent with this opinion.


         Andes and her daughter, Dickey, decided to establish a community home and jointly purchased a residence in May 2014 for $380, 000. Andes contributed a down payment of $76, 400, Dickey contributed $2, 500 earnest money, and the remaining balance was financed through a mortgage. Both moved into the home and quickly realized that it suffered from several previously unknown defects, including severe water leaks, dry rot, termite damage, and plumbing issues, which required extensive renovations and repairs.

         Approximately one year after the purchase, Andes vacated the home following an incident with Dickey's boyfriend, who frequently visited the home and helped with the renovations. Andes and Dickey decided that they would complete the renovations and place the home on the market. They secured a home equity loan (line of credit) in the amount of $87, 417 to finance the renovations, which were to be overseen by Dickey. Both Andes and Dickey were listed as obligors on the line of credit.

         During this time, Andes and Dickey also negotiated an agreement, without the assistance of legal counsel, relating to the home. The agreement, signed on June 17, 2015, imposed duties and responsibilities on both Dickey and Andes. Because Andes's relationship with Dickey and the others living in the home had deteriorated, the agreement mandated that Andes give 24-hour notice prior to coming to the home, forward her mail to a new address, and remove all of her belongings by the end of July.

         The agreement allowed Dickey to continue to live in the home and tasked her with supervising the renovations. Dickey's responsibilities regarding the renovations included providing a monthly accounting, paying bills, and supplying Andes with weekly summaries. Andes was to pay $1, 000 per month toward the mortgage and other bills, compensate Dickey and one of the other housemates at an hourly rate for administrative work and labor, pay $3, 000 per month and travel expenses to Dickey's boyfriend for his work on the renovations, and provide a yearly bonus of $1, 500 to Dickey, her boyfriend, and the housemate assisting with the renovations.

         The agreement also stated that Andes would "buy [Dickey] out of the home" for $66, 875.50, an amount arrived at through a calculation set forth in the agreement. The buyout amount was to be paid by Andes to Dickey in $2, 000 monthly installments until satisfied (approximately thirty-three monthly payments). Upon the sale of the home, Andes, Dickey, and two other individuals would equally share "any proceeds above and beyond [Andes]'s contributions[.]"

         After obtaining the line of credit and signing the agreement, Andes and Dickey continued to conflict. Andes requested a list of the five top priority projects and timeline for their completion and also inquired into whether the renovations could be completed within the line of credit. Dickey, believing that the line of credit was only the first of several financing steps and unsure about the highest priority projects because she continued to discover defects, did not respond. The parties also clashed over Andes's alleged failure to abide by provisions in the agreement such as the 24hour notice requirement. When Dickey insisted that Andes follow the agreement, Andes threatened to terminate Dickey's access to the funds in the joint line of credit. Andes testified that she suggested that Dickey accept the money remaining in the line of credit in satisfaction of the buyout but acknowledged that Dickey did not agree to her proposal.[2]

         Dickey, in response to Andes's threat to terminate her access to the funds in the line of credit, which were needed to complete the renovations to the home, withdrew the remaining balance of $69, 765.67. She established a new account in her name into which she deposited the funds so that they would continue to be available to pay for the ongoing renovations. Upon discovering that the funds had been withdrawn from the line of credit, Andes notified Dickey by email that she could keep the withdrawn money as satisfaction of the buyout. Andes further stated that she wanted sole ownership of the home, would assume and pay the first and second mortgages, and demanded Dickey vacate the home within thirty days. By this time, Andes had paid $3, 000 toward the buyout amount. Thus, the $69, 765.67 from the line of credit exceeded the balance of $63, 875.50 owed on the buyout. However, Dickey did not accept this proposal, responding that she would continue to use the funds to renovate the property pursuant to their written agreement.

         Despite Dickey's rejection of the proposal, Andes reiterated her position that Dickey had been paid in full and stated that she would be initiating legal proceedings. Andes filed the present lawsuit on August 26, 2015, bringing claims for specific performance (alleging that Dickey received full performance under the buyout provision of the agreement when she withdrew the funds from the line of credit and seeking a fully-executed warranty deed conveying Dickey's undivided one-half interest in the property to Andes), breach of contract, and partition. Dickey answered and counter-claimed for specific performance and breach of contract.

         At trial, Dickey proceeded on her claim for breach of contract, which was tried to a jury, and Andes proceeded on her claim for specific performance seeking conveyance of Dickey's interest in the home based on satisfaction of the buyout provision, which the trial court reserved for its own determination. The jury found in favor of Andes on Dickey's breach of contract claim. The trial court found in favor of Andes on her claim for specific performance, determining that the buyout provision had been satisfied. The court issued its judgment in favor of Andes on both claims, giving Andes title to and possession ...

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