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Guerra v. Locarno Partners, LP

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

July 9, 2019

CARLOS GUERRA, Appellant,
v.
LOCARNO PARTNERS, LP, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Jennifer M. Phillips, Judge

          Before: Thomas N. Chapman, Presiding Judge, and Mark D. Pfeiffer and Cynthia L. Martin, Judges

          OPINION

          MARK D. PFEIFFER, JUDGE

         Mr. Carlos Guerra ("Guerra") appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri ("circuit court"), ruling against him on his claims of intentional interference with contract and breach of contract and in favor of Locarno Partners, LP, on its counterclaims that Guerra breached the lease agreements on two units of its property and owed rent and other damages for that breach. Because of significant briefing deficiencies that hamper our ability to review this case on the merits, Guerra's appeal is dismissed.

         Background

         The Locarno Apartments, owned by Locarno Partners, LP ("Locarno"), are located across the street from the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Locarno utilizes the property management services of NFI Management, Inc. ("NFI"), at the Locarno Apartments. In December of 2016, Ms. Karen Kennedy, the regional property supervisor for NFI discovered an ad for a Locarno apartment unit on Craigslist which was not placed by Locarno. Upon further investigation, Ms. Kennedy discovered that Guerra had leases on two Locarno apartment units, numbers 206 and 904, was not occupying either unit, and was subleasing them through Airbnb, an internet-based marketplace which lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. Locarno representatives posted "Notices to Unauthorized Occupants" to vacate the apartments on the doors of the units, and subsequently, the parties subleasing the properties vacated the apartment units.

         In April 2017, Guerra filed a petition alleging one count of intentional interference with contract, because Locarno had ordered his sublessees to leave the units, thereby depriving him of money he would have earned from them, and one count of breach of contract, alleging that Locarno breached its lease with Guerra by cancelling his sublease of unit 904 and not allowing him to rent out unit 206. Locarno filed its answer and counterclaims, denying the validity of Guerra's claims, asserting its affirmative defenses, and asserting its own counterclaims that Guerra defaulted on his leases of apartment units 904 and 206 and owed rent and further damages for the breached lease agreements for those units.

         This bench-tried case was heard by the circuit court on April 6, 2018. On May 2, 2018, the circuit court issued its judgment ruling against Guerra on his claims of intentional interference with contract and breach of contract and in favor of Locarno on its counterclaims that Guerra breached the lease agreements on two units of its property and owed rent and other damages for that breach. The trial court denied Guerra's motion for new trial. Guerra appeals.

         Analysis

         We find that respondent's motion to dismiss Guerra's appeal on the basis of Rule 84.04 briefing violations to be well taken and grant the motion to dismiss.

         Guerra's initial brief was stricken for numerous briefing deficiencies including, but not limited to, deficiencies relating to his point relied on and the argument section of his brief. Guerra's amended brief is no better. Guerra's amended sole point on appeal, in its entirety, states: "The court erred in not finding for appellants [sic] that the leases signed by appellant were breached by appellant."

         Aside from being somewhat nonsensical, this point relied on fails to identify "wherein and why" the circuit court allegedly erred. From this point relied on, we cannot tell whether Guerra is arguing that the circuit court's judgment is not supported by substantial evidence, is against the weight of the evidence, or erroneously declares or applies the law. See Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976); R&J Rhodes, LLC v. Finney, 231 S.W.3d 183, 187 (Mo. App. W.D. 2007).

         Rule 84.04(d)(1) requires each point to "(A) Identify the trial court ruling or action that the appellant challenges; (B) State concisely the legal reasons for the appellant's claim of reversible error; and (C) Explain in summary fashion why, in the context of the case, those legal reasons support the claim of reversible error."[1]

         "Rule 84.04 is not merely an exhortation from a judicial catechism nor is it a suggestion of legal etiquette." Shockley v. State, SC96633, 2019 WL 1614593, at *25 n.9 (Mo. banc Apr. 16, 2019) (citing Thummel v. King, 570 S.W.2d 679, 686 (Mo. banc 1978)). "An appellate court's role is to review specifically challenged trial court rulings, not to sift through the record to detect possibly valid arguments." Smith v. City of St. Louis, 395 S.W.3d 20, 29 (Mo. banc 2013). "Inadequate points create a root problem: this Court may interpret a contention differently than does the opponent or differently than was intended by the party asserting the contention." J.A.D. v. F.J.D., 978 S.W.3d 336, 339 (Mo. banc 1998). "'It is not the function of the appellate court to serve as advocate for any party to an appeal. That is the function of counsel. It would be unfair to the ...


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