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City of North Kansas v. Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

February 26, 2019

CITY OF NORTH KANSAS CITY, Appellant,
v.
ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND COMPANY, Respondent.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE LARRY D. HARMAN, JUDGE.

          Before: Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Presiding Judge, Alok Ahuja, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge.

          EDWARD R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE.

         The City of North Kansas City, Missouri (NKC) filed suit in the Circuit Court of Clay County against Gary Tauvar and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) alleging public nuisance and negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of ADM finding that (1) ADM was not, as a former owner of the property in question, liable for any nuisance because Tauvar knew the condition of the property when he purchased it; and (2) NKC's claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. NKC appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         ADM owned property located at 1400 Nodaway in North Kansas City, Missouri. This property contained a grain elevator and was surrounded by operating railroad tracks owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. In 2002, ADM sold the property by quit claim deed for $1.00 to Tauvar. The property was not being used as a functioning grain elevator when ADM sold it to Tauvar.

         First Notice of Abatement

         NKC completed an inspection of the property on October 28, 2003. The inspection was conducted by NKC's senior building code inspector and was in response to a complaint that salvage material was being dumped on the property.

         The day after the inspection, NKC sent Tauvar a notice of abatement stating that "the above-mentioned structure has been found to be unsafe." It further stated that the structure was "dangerous to life, property and safety of the public." The notice did not specifically identify the referenced structure; instead, the subject of the notice was "Property located on E. 14th (unsafe structure)." The notice listed a number of dangerous conditions, required Tauvar to close and secure the structure within ten days, and required him to submit a plan to NKC within 30 days to repair or demolish the structure. The city posted the notice of abatement and a notice of condemnation on the property.

         Two weeks later, officials from NKC again inspected the property. A few days after this inspection, NKC's senior building code inspector sent a memo to NKC's chief of police stating, in part, as follows:

The property has been placarded by NKC Code Enforcement as "CONDEMNED" Unsafe For Occupancy. This is due to structural alterations made to one of the metal silos without obtaining a building permit and the generally dilapidated condition of all of the structures on the property. No person should be allowed to enter any of the buildings on the property, as this is a code violation.

         The following week, NKC cited Tauvar for failing to comply with the previously issued notice of abatement. NKC also generated several reports documenting the condition of the property, including that the notice of abatement "gave Mr. Tauvar 10 days to have the structures closed and secured[, ]" but "it is evident that Mr. Tauvar is still dumping and occupying this property and has failed to close or secure the structures."

         Second Notice of Abatement

         In June 2004, NKC performed another inspection of the property. The following month, Tauvar applied for a permit "to provide structural support to opening in metal grain bin and to repear [sic] openings/support to effect drive thru." NKC denied Tauvar's permit application.

         In September 2004, an additional inspection was performed by the city resulting in a second abatement notice being sent to Tauvar. This abatement notice declared the property a nuisance based on "numerous safety violations." The abatement notice also ordered Tauvar to take action within ten days to correct the violations, including that "[s]tructures and property shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public[, ]" and "[a]ccess to all structures and property must be secured."

         Tauvar attempted to resolve some of the violations found by NKC by hiring a contractor to demolish metal silos and by obtaining a razing permit from NKC. However, the demolition produced an even more dangerous condition for the neighboring railroad prompting NKC to revoke the razing permit and render the structure safe at its own expense.

         Third Notice of Abatement

         In the early part of 2005, NKC twice inspected the property. A third notice of abatement was issued by NKC in the summer of that year. This notice of abatement found "the property to be in violation of the City Code and hereby declared a nuisance." The notice again listed numerous violations and stated that "[s]tructures and property shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public." The notice warned that "[f]ailure to bring [the] property in to [sic] compliance with the code will result in legal action." In August 2005, Tauvar indicated to NKC that he was in the process of removing materials that were located on the property and that, after those materials were removed, he would begin "demolition of facilities." No facilities were demolished.

         Order ...


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