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Peterson v. Madson

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

October 20, 2017

WILLIAM MADSON, et al., Defendants.


          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Marshall Lawrence Peterson asks the Court to reconsider its Order dismissing Count I of his amended complaint. Doc. 79. The motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Count I of the amended complaint, Doc. 54, is against 31 persons who own or owned plots of land in the same subdivision as Peterson, and concerns a judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Camden County, Missouri in 1995.[1] The Camden County Circuit Court held that the plaintiffs in that case had demonstrated adverse possession and granted their petition to quiet title. In the case before this Court, Peterson requests a declaratory judgment under Count I, finding that the 1995 state court judgment “is null and void” because neither he nor other necessary, indispensable parties were made part of the state court lawsuit or given notice; the state court lacked subject matter jurisdiction; and neither statutory nor common law requirements relating to adverse possession were established. Id., p. 11.

         Several of the Defendants filed motions to dismiss Count I, arguing that there was a pending, parallel proceeding filed in the Camden County Circuit Court in 2015, involving the same parties and issues as the case before this Court. Docs. 58, 63, 64, and 66. Specifically, Peterson filed a lawsuit in Camden County Circuit Court in 2015 against the same 31 Defendants whom he is suing in Count I of his amended complaint before this Court. See Peterson v. Madson, et al., no. 15CM-CC00251, Cir. Ct. Camden County, Missouri. Doc. 58-1 and 58-44. His allegations in the state court petition are the same as those in his amended complaint before this Court. Several of the defendants[2] in the 2015 state-court case also filed counterclaims against Peterson, including a counterclaim that was the mirror image of Peterson's state court petition. Specifically, the defendants (or counterclaim plaintiffs) set out Peterson's allegations, then their own allegations that the 1995 state-court judgment was valid pursuant to the terms of the subdivision plat, and then asked the state court to declare that the 1995 state-court judgment was valid. Doc. 58-3, pp. 8-10 (Second Amended Counterclaim, Count I).

         Peterson voluntarily dismissed his petition in the 2015 Camden County case on 6/14/2016, stating that he would refile in the near future. Doc. 58-2. However, the defendants, or counterclaim plaintiffs therein, continued to pursue their counterclaims and on 5/25/017, the Camden County Circuit Court granted their motion for summary judgment, holding that the 1995 state-court judgment “is valid and enforceable” and denying Peterson's motion for summary judgment on the counterclaim. Doc. 58-4, p. 1. The state court subsequently entered an “Interlocutory Judgment” on 7/14/2017, which provided in relevant part:

[T]he judgment dated October 10, 1995, entered in Camden County Case No. CV195-522CC is not void, but rather is valid, binding, and enforceable against Peterson …; the law prevents Peterson … from directly or collaterally attacking said judgment; there is no basis for Peterson … to set aside, amend, modify or change said judgment; and Peterson … [is] barred from bringing further actions to challenge the validity, enforceability, or binding effect of said judgment[.]

Doc. 81-1, pp. 2-3.

         This Court concluded that the proceedings before it and before the Camden County Circuit Court are parallel, and that requiring the parties to proceed in both courts would be uneconomical and vexatious, and would serve no useful purpose, and that abstention was therefore appropriate with respect to Count I of the amended complaint. This Court further held that dismissal, rather than a stay, was the most appropriate course of action because the scope of the state court action was broad enough to resolve all disputes between the parties and there was no apparent reason why this action would return to federal court. The Court dismissed Count I in its entirety and with respect to all Defendants against whom it was brought. Doc. 77.

         II. Discussion

         A. Peterson's premature notice of appeal does not divest this Court of jurisdiction to dispose of the motion to reconsider.

         The Court first addresses a preliminary matter. Peterson filed his motion to reconsider eight days after entry of the order dismissing Count I, and four weeks later filed a notice of appeal to the Eighth Circuit. The dismissal order adjudicated fewer than all claims in the action. Such an order may not be appealed, subject to the exceptions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1292, Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), and the collateral order doctrine. Leonard v. Dorsey & Whitney LLP, 553 F.3d 609, 635 (8th Cir. 2009). The dismissal order does not fall under § 1292 (requests for injunctive relief, certified questions, etc.), nor was a judgment entered, Rule 54(b). Assuming that it is an immediately appealable, collateral order, however, the notice of appeal would not divest this Court of jurisdiction because a notice of appeal is not effective until such a motion is ruled. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(B)(i), and MIF Realty L.P. v. Rochester Assocs., 92 F.3d 752, 755 (8th Cir. 1996) (a motion to reconsider tolls the time for filing a notice of appeal, and a notice of appeal filed prior to disposition of such a motion does not divest the trial court of jurisdiction to rule on it). Therefore, the Court will proceed to rule on the motion.

         B. Peterson demonstrates no basis for reconsideration.

         Generally, a district court has broad discretion in determining whether to grant a motion to reconsider. In re Levaquin Products Liab. Litig., 739 F.3d 401, 404 (8th Cir. 2014). However, such a motion “serve[s] a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Arnold v. Sec. Servs., Inc., 627 F.3d 716, 721 (8th Cir. 2010). It “is not a vehicle for simple reargument on the merits.” Broadway v. Norris, 193 F.3d 987, ...

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