Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
LONDA L. SOFIA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
ROBERT W. DODSON, M.D., et al., Defendants-Respondents.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JASPER COUNTY Honorable David B.
W. SHEFFIELD, J.
Sofia, Gayla Woodcock, and Robin Frazier (collectively
"Appellants"), surviving daughters of Gladys Walker
("Walker"), appeal the trial court's judgment
granting Mercy Hospital Joplin's ("Mercy
Hospital") motion for summary judgment ("the
motion"). In the motion, Mercy Hospital argued that the
underlying wrongful death action against it was barred by the
statute of limitations and that the savings clause found in
§ 537.100 was inapplicable. The trial court granted
the motion. Appellants argue that the trial court erred as a
matter of law by granting summary judgment in that the
lawsuit against Mercy Hospital was timely filed and re-filed
within the one-year savings period contained in §
537.100. We agree. The trial court's judgment is reversed
and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
Court reviews an appeal of a motion for summary judgment on
an "essentially de novo" basis. Custer
v. Wal-Mart Stores East I, LP, 492 S.W.3d 212, 214 (Mo.
App. S.D. 2016) citing ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v.
Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo.
banc 1993). Whether a summary judgment motion was properly
granted is a question of law, and this Court "need not
defer to the trial court's order granting summary
judgment." Id. "The application of a
statute of limitations is a question of law that this court
reviews de novo." Mackey v. Smith, 438 S.W.3d
465, 471 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014).
mother died on April 10, 2011, four days after undergoing
gallbladder removal surgery. Appellants filed an action
against Dr. Robert W. Dodson ("Dr. Dodson"), who
performed the surgery, and his presumed employer Mercy
Hospital, on March 1, 2013. Appellants later learned that Dr.
Dodson's employer was actually Mercy Clinic Joplin
("Mercy Clinic"), not Mercy Hospital. On July 11, 2016,
Appellants were granted leave to file and filed an amended
petition ("First Amended Petition") substituting
Mercy Clinic in place of Mercy Hospital. Appellants voluntarily
dismissed Mercy Hospital on July 14, 2016, without prejudice.
Appellants then sought, and were granted, leave to file a
second amended petition ("Second Amended Petition")
on January 4, 2017. This Second Amended Petition named three
defendants: Dr. Dodson, Mercy Clinic, and Mercy Hospital.
following timeline describes the sequence of events:
Death of Walker.
Plaintiffs file Petition for Damages
("Original Petition") against Dr. Dodson
and Mercy Hospital.
Three-year anniversary of Walker's death.
Trial court grants Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave
to Amend Petition "so as to substitute Mercy
Clinic . . . in place and instead of Mercy Hospital
Joplin" pursuant to Rule 55.33(c).
First Amended Petition filed against Dr. Dodson and
Plaintiffs file Voluntary Dismissal Without
Prejudice of Defendant Mercy Hospital.
Plaintiffs file Motion for Leave to file Second
Amended Petition naming defendants Dr. Dodson,
Mercy Clinic, and Mercy Hospital.
Court sustains Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to
Amend. Court orders Second Amended Petition filed.
Court grants Mercy Hospital's Motion for
motion, Mercy Hospital argued that Appellants' Second
Amended Petition was filed outside of the statute of
limitations and that the savings clause of § 537.100 did
not apply. Mercy Hospital also argued that neither §
537.100 nor Rule 67.02, addressing the effect of voluntary
dismissals, could apply to "re-join the dropped entity
to the case later on." The trial court granted the
motion. This appeal follows.
appeal does not address the merits of the underlying dispute,
but rather, whether Appellants' claim against Mercy
Hospital is time-barred by the statute of limitations. The
applicable statute of limitations for wrongful death actions
based on § 537-o8o is three years. § 537.100.1. The
statute of limitations in this case began running at the
moment of Walker's death. See State ex rel.
Goldsivorthy v. Kanatzar, 543 S.W.3d, 582, 585 (Mo. banc
2018) ("A wrongful death cause of action accrues at the
moment of death.").
law provides for an additional one-year extension of the
statute of limitations by § 537.100's savings
clause. This savings clause provides in relevant part:
[P]rovided, that if any such action shall have been commenced
within the time prescribed in this section, and the
plaintiff therein take or suffer a nonsuit, or after a
verdict for him the judgment be arrested, or after a judgment
for him the same be reversed on appeal or error, such
plaintiff may commence a new action from time to time
within one year after such nonsuit suffered or such
judgment arrested or reversed; and in determining whether
such new action has been begun within the period so limited,
the time during which ...