Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
ALMA J. CARRUTHERS, Respondent,
SERENITY MEMORIAL FUNERAL AND CREMATION SERVICE, LLC, Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
Barbara T. Peebles
T. QUIGLESS, J.
Memorial Funeral and Cremation Service, LLC
("Serenity") appeals from the judgment of the trial
court in favor of Alma J. Carruthers ("Ms.
Carruthers") on her claim seeking to recover the money
paid to Serenity for the cremation of her deceased son, Ricky
Whitby, ("Decedent"). Serenity asserts one point on
appeal, arguing the trial court erred in entering judgment in
favor of Ms. Carruthers based on its conclusion that Serenity
failed to turn over Decedent's cremated remains to Ms.
Carruthers, as required by Section 194.350. We reverse the
and Procedural Background
Carruthers is Decedent's mother. Secoy Webb ("Mr.
Webb") is Decedent's son and Ms. Carruthers'
grandson. In December of 2017, while Decedent was gravely
ill, Ms. Carruthers purchased a funeral insurance policy for
$1, 795 through Serenity's "pre-need agent" to
pay for Decedent's final arrangements. Ms. Carruthers
also signed an authorization with Serenity indicating she was
Decedent's next-of-kin or acting on behalf of the
next-of-kin. Upon Decedent's death in January of 2018,
Ms. Carruthers authorized Serenity "to take charge of
the funeral arrangements for [Decedent]."
Ms. Carruthers was meeting with Serenity to discuss the final
arrangements for Decedent, Mr. Webb arrived at Serenity's
office. Ms. Carruthers told Serenity Mr. Webb was
Decedent's son, after which Serenity informed Ms.
Carruthers that Mr. Webb had the legal right to decide how to
dispose of Decedent's remains under Missouri's right
of sepulcher statute, Section 194.119. While Ms. Carruthers
wanted Decedent to have a cremation and a visitation, Mr.
Webb wanted to have a funeral and burial because that is what
Decedent would have wanted. Serenity informed Mr. Webb of the
additional costs for a funeral and burial. Ms. Carruthers
told Mr. Webb, if he wanted Decedent to be buried he would
have to pay for it himself as she was not paying for a
burial. Ms. Carruthers informed Serenity she would only allow
the money from the insurance policy to be used for a
visitation and cremation.
Webb was unable to come up with the additional money for a
burial. He agreed to have Decedent cremated and signed a
contract with Serenity. The contract was entitled
"Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected."
It provided that Serenity agreed to cremate Defendant, hold a
visitation, and perform other related services in exchange
for Mr. Webb's agreement to pay Serenity $1, 795 and
provide a guaranteed form of payment forty-eight hours prior
to the service. The contract was silent as to what Serenity
should do with Decedent's remains after the visitation.
received the funds from Ms. Carruthers' insurance policy
to pay for Decedent's cremation and performed the
services provided for in the contract with Mr. Webb.
Afterwards, Ms. Carruthers went to collect Decedent's
remains and Serenity informed her that Mr. Webb had already
collected the remains.
Carruthers filed a petition against Serenity in small claims
court, seeking recovery of the $1, 795 she paid Serenity,
arguing she was entitled to get her money back because
Serenity did not provide her with Decedent's remains,
which she was entitled to as the person who paid for
Decedent's final arrangements. The court entered judgment
in favor of Serenity. Ms. Carruthers filed a petition for
trial de novo in the circuit court. Following a
bench trial, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of
Ms. Carruthers and ordered Serenity to pay Ms. Carruthers $1,
795 in damages, plus costs. This appeal follows.
Compliance with Mandatory Briefing Requirements of
proceeding to the analysis of Serenity's arguments, we
direct Serenity's attention to Missouri Supreme Court
Rule 84.04 (2018),  which sets forth requirements for the
contents of appellate briefs.
84.04(e) requires appellants to include in their argument for
each claim of error "a concise statement describing
whether the error was preserved for appellate review; if so,
how it was preserved; and the applicable standard of
review." Rule 84.04(e), see In re V.C. N.C. &
T.D.C.C., 458 S.W.3d 443, 450 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015).
Serenity's appellant brief fails to comply with Rule
84.04(e) because it neither describes how its claim of error
was preserved for appellate review, nor states the applicable
standard of review. Either deficiency would be grounds for us
to dismiss Serenity's appeal because the failure to
comply with Rule 84.04(e) "preserves nothing for
appellate review." Fritz v. Fritz (In re
Fritz), 243 S.W.3d 484, 487 (Mo. App. E.D. 2007).
"While it would be easy enough for this court to
determine the applicable standard of review, it is not our
duty to supplement the deficient brief with our own
research." In re V.C. N.C. & T.D.C.C., 458
S.W.3d at 447 ("The standard of review is an essential
portion of all appellate arguments; it outlines this
court's role in disposing of the matter before
us."). Neither is it our job to "comb the
record" in search of facts to support Serenity's
claim of error or demonstrate it is properly preserved for
appellate review. See Wong v. Wong, 391 S.W.3d 917,
919-20 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013); Bramer v. Abston, 553
S.W.3d 872, 879 (Mo. App. S.D. 2018) (an appellant's
failure to "ascertain the preservation status" of
his or her claims and "present argument in conformance
with the applicable standard of review drastically
undercuts the efficacy" of appellant's arguments).
84.04(d)(5) requires appellants to "include a list of
cases, not to exceed four, and the constitutional, statutory,
and regulatory provisions or other authority upon which that
party principally relies." Serenity's brief fails to
comply with Rule 84.04(d)(5) in that it does not cite any
appropriate precedent to support its claims of error. See
Brown v. Ameristar Casino Kan. City, Inc., 211 S.W.3d
145, 147-48 (Mo. App. W.D. 2007). The only legal citations in
Serenity's entire brief are two statutes. Although
Serenity cites the relevant statutes, Serenity fails to cite
any cases supporting its arguments. "[A]n appellant must
cite legal authority to support his points relied on if the
point is one in which precedent is appropriate or available;
if no authority is available, an explanation should be made
for the absence of citations." In re Fritz, 243
S.W.3d at 488. ...