Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1622-CC00194
Honorable Robert H. Dierker, Jr.
M. CLAYTON III, Judge
Bray ("Plaintiff) appeals the judgment granting Wells
Fargo Bank, N.A.'s ("Wells Fargo") motion to
dismiss Plaintiffs petition to enforce a mechanic's lien.
The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs petition as to Wells
Fargo on the grounds Plaintiffs action was not commenced
within the six-month statute of limitations set forth in
section 429.170 RSMo 2000, because although Plaintiffs
petition was filed within the applicable six-month period,
the summons for Wells Fargo was not issued within that
timeframe. We reverse and remand.
case concerns the enforceability of a mechanic's lien for
labor and materials allegedly furnished by Plaintiff at real
property located at 6169 Westminster Place in the City of St.
Louis ("the Property"). Plaintiff, a general
contractor, alleges in his petition that on December 1, 2008,
he entered into a contract with the owners of the Property to
provide the labor and materials necessary for the renovation
of the Property, and the owners agreed to pay him $178, 000
upon completion of his work. Plaintiff also alleges he
completed the renovation work on or before April 27, 2015 and
he made a demand for payment of $178, 000, but the owners
failed and refused to pay. Accordingly, on July 27, 2015,
Plaintiff filed a mechanic's lien against the Property in
the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the City of
January 27, 2016, which was exactly six months after his
mechanic's lien was filed, Plaintiff filed a petition to
enforce his mechanic's lien in the Circuit Court of the
City of St. Louis. The petition was filed against several
underlying defendants including the purported owners of the
Property and Wells Fargo, which has an interest in the
Property pursuant to a deed of trust. The docket sheets indicate
that although Plaintiff paid the requisite filing fee for his
petition and the petition was accepted and deemed filed on
January 27, there was an insufficient filing fee for the
issuance of summonses in the amount of $43.00, and the
summonses were not issued on January 27. Plaintiff paid the
additional $43.00 filing fee on January 28, and the circuit
clerk issued the summonses on February 4.
Wells Fargo filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs petition to
enforce his mechanic's lien, arguing Plaintiff failed to
commence his action within the six-month statute of
limitations set forth in section 429.170. In its motion to
dismiss, Wells Fargo conceded Plaintiffs petition was filed
within the applicable six-month period but argued the action
was not timely commenced because the summons for Wells Fargo
was not issued within that timeframe. Plaintiff filed a
response contending his action was timely filed because an
action is commenced upon the filing of a petition alone and
his petition to enforce was filed within six months of the
filing of his mechanic's lien.
Honorable Julian L. Bush and the Honorable Robert H. Dierker,
Jr. (collectively "the trial courts") each made a
relevant ruling in this case. First, Judge Bush entered an
order dismissing Plaintiffs petition as to Wells Fargo,
because case law from this Court supported Wells Fargo's
position that an action is commenced upon the filing of a
petition and the issuance of a summons and because the
summons for Wells Fargo was not issued within the six-month
statute of limitations set forth in section 429.170. In his
order, Judge Bush expressed "doubts as to the[ ]
soundness" of the relevant case law from this Court
because it ignored the 1972 amendment to Missouri Supreme
Court Rule 53.01 and because the Rule currently provides,
"[a] civil action is commenced by filing a petition with
the court." Nevertheless, Judge Bush's order
ultimately dismissed Plaintiffs petition as to defendant
Wells Fargo because it was "not for [a trial] court to
ignore appellate opinions[.]"
then filed a motion to reconsider, which was heard and denied
by Judge Dierker, who, agreeing with Judge Bush's
concerns in his Rule 53.01 analysis, "decided
not to vacate Judge Bush's order . . . because
the [c]ourt [wa]s convinced the prior order can be certified
for immediate appeal, and it [wa]s in the best interests of
all parties that the status of the claim against [Wells
Fargo] be resolved at the earliest possible time."
(emphasis in original). The trial court then noted, "the
parties agreed at oral argument that the viability of
[P]laintiff s lien ultimately depends on its priority over
the deed of trust held by Wells Fargo, " and the court
certified the judgment as final and appealable because there
was no just reason for delay. This appeal followed.
Plaintiffs sole point on appeal, he asserts the trial court
erred in dismissing his petition as to Wells Fargo on the
grounds Plaintiffs action was not commenced within the
six-month statute of limitations set forth in section
429.170. For the reasons discussed below, we agree.
The Standard of Review and the Statute of
Court's review of a trial court's decision granting a
motion to dismiss a petition is de novo. McMillan v.
Pilot Travel Centers, LLC, 515 S.W.3d 699, 701 (Mo. App.
E.D. 2016). Similarly, whether a statute of limitations bars
a plaintiffs cause of action is also reviewed de novo.
Id.; Davison v. Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., 449
S.W.3d 81, 83 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014).
429.170, which is the statute of limitations for
mechanic's lien cases, provides an action ...