Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cox v. City of Chillicothe

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division

February 13, 2019

STEVE COX, Appellant,
v.
CITY OF CHILLICOTHE AND RICK KNOUSE, Respondents.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston County, Missouri The Honorable Daren L. Adkins, Judge.

          Before: Zel M. Fischer, Special Judge, Presiding, Cynthia L. Martin, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge.

          Gary D. Witt, Judge.

         Appellant Steve Cox ("Sheriff")[1] appeals the judgment of the circuit court of Livingston County, finding in favor of defendants City of Chillicothe ("City") and Rick Knouse ("Chief")[2] (collectively, the "Defendants") on Sheriff's Second Amended Petition following a bench trial. Counts I and II of the Petition alleged damages for violations of Missouri's Sunshine Law, section 610.010, et seq.[3] ("Sunshine Law") for unlawfully disclosing the contents of a 911 tape and Count III alleged negligence and negligence per se for the disclosure of the contents of the 911 tape. On appeal, Sheriff only challenges the judgment as to Counts I and II and raises nine allegations of error by the circuit court. There is no allegation of error as to the Defendants' verdict on Count III so we will not address it further. We affirm.

         Factual Background[4]

         During all relevant events Sheriff was the elected sheriff of Livingston County, Missouri. Chillicothe is the county seat of Livingston County. At all relevant times Chief was the chief of police for the City of Chillicothe. On September 18, 2014, at approximately 10 p.m. Clifford Hampton ("Hampton") attempted to repossess Sheriff's personal vehicle from Sheriff's home. Sheriff's home is located in Livingston County, but outside of the limits of the City of Chillicothe. The home has a driveway that is approximately one-hundred yards long. Sheriff was standing on the back steps of his home when he saw Hampton's vehicle approaching. Hampton informed Sheriff that he was there to repossess the vehicle. Sheriff informed Hampton that he was trespassing and ordered him to leave the property. After some contentious interaction between the two, Hampton eventually left Sheriff's property.

         Immediately following the encounter, Hampton placed a call to 911. The 911 call was received by Chillicothe Police Department Dispatcher Wanda Urton ("Urton").[5]Hampton reported that Sheriff had threatened to unlawfully arrest him, to "kick his ass," to unjustifiably shoot him, and that Sheriff had reached into Hampton's vehicle and attempted to physically remove Hampton from the vehicle. After confirming with Urton that Sheriff was in fact the elected sheriff of Livingston County, Hampton stated that he was going to speak with his attorney the following day and would be suing the county. The call was recorded ("911 Recording"). After the call was completed, Urton emailed the supervising dispatcher, Cindy Hanavan ("Hanavan"), notating the time of the call and its location within dispatch records. Urton also advised the second dispatcher, Karri Curnow, as well as Livingston County Sheriff Deputy, Nicholas Leadbetter, of the contents of the call. According to her testimony, Urton made the disclosures of the allegations contained in the call "for officer safety reasons" but did not play the 911 Recording for anyone.

         The next morning, Hanavan played the 911 Recording for Chief. Chief, in turn, contacted Livingston County prosecutor Adam Warren ("Prosecutor"), who thereafter listened to the 911 Recording in Hanavan's office, and was provided with a copy of the 911 Recording. Chief also played the 911 Recording for Livingston County Commissioner Ken Lauhoff ("Commissioner Lauhoff"), because during the call Hampton discussed civilly suing Livingston County. The trial court found that Chief "possibly" played the 911 Recording for other City of Chillicothe police officers and that Chief testified that, to the extent it was done, it was for "officer safety reasons."

         Hanavan also played the 911 Recording for Livingston County Commissioner and 911 Advisory Board member Eva Danner-Horton ("Commissioner Danner-Horton") at Commissioner Danner-Horton's request.

         Prosecutor referred the matter to Missouri Highway Patrol for investigation. Hanavan also played the 911 Recording for Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Anders in conjunction with that investigation.

         The court found that while others alleged that the 911 Recording was also played for them, such testimony was "inconsistent, incompatible, inconclusive, speculative, and hearsay. . . ."

         Sheriff alleged that the disclosures of the 911 Recording to these various individuals violated the Sunshine Law and caused him personal embarrassment and substantial injury. As such, he brought suit against the City and Chief alleging various violations of sections 610.010 thru 610.150 of the Sunshine Law. Specifically, Count I sought recovery for the Defendants' alleged violation of section 610.150, Count II sought recovery for the alleged violation of section 610.100.2, and Count III sought recovery based on theories of negligence and negligence per se for the Defendants' alleged violation of their duty's pursuant to the Sunshine Law. Sheriff sought actual and punitive damages as well as statutory damages and penalties including attorney fees and costs.

         Following a bench trial, the circuit court made a factual finding that neither Chief, nor any person associated with the City had knowledge that the disclosure of the 911 Recording to the individuals in question violated the Sunshine Law. Nor was there any evidence that Chief or any person associated with the City purposefully violated any section of the Sunshine Law. Finding that there was no knowing or purposeful violation, the circuit court found that Sheriff could not recover damages for any alleged violations of the Sunshine Law. The circuit court ruled for the Defendants on Count III on other grounds not relevant to this appeal. The circuit court found for the Defendants on all counts ("Judgment").

         Standard ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.