from the Circuit Court of Clay County The Honorable K.
Elizabeth Davis, Judge
Division Four: Karen King Mitchell, C.J., and Alok Ahuja and
Cynthia L. Martin, JJ.
and Sherley Troupe appeal the judgment of the Circuit Court
of Clay County quieting title to a 0.9-acre tract of land in
favor of the Troupes' neighbors, Corey and Mindi Ruby.
Although the Rubys hold legal title to the disputed property,
the Troupes contended that they acquired the property by
adverse possession. The circuit court rejected the
Troupes' adverse possession claim following a bench
trial. On appeal the Troupes claim that, under the evidence
presented at trial, they established all of the elements of
an adverse possession claim. Because we conclude that
substantial evidence supports the circuit court's finding
that the Troupes did not exercise exclusive possession over
the disputed property, we affirm the circuit court's
rejection of their adverse possession claim.
Troupes' arguments on appeal are highly fact-specific,
and a published opinion addressing the merits of their claims
would have no precedential value. Pursuant to Rule 84.16(b),
we have instead provided the parties an unpublished
memorandum setting forth the reasons for our affirmance of
the circuit court's judgment. This published opinion
addresses only a threshold issue: whether this Court has
jurisdiction over the Troupes' appeal.
party raised an issue concerning our appellate jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, "the Court has an obligation, acting
sua sponte if necessary, to determine its authority
to hear the appeals that come before it." Glasgow
Sch. Dist. v. Howard Cnty. Coroner, 572 S.W.3d 543, 547
(Mo. App. W.D. 2019) (citation and internal quotation marks
prerequisite to appellate review is that there be a final
judgment." Gibson v. Brewer, 952 S.W.2d 239,
244 (Mo. 1997) (quoting Boley v. Knowles, 905 S.W.2d
86, 88 (Mo. 1995) (citing § 512.020, RSMo)). "If
the trial court's judgment is not final, the reviewing
court lacks jurisdiction and the appeal must be
dismissed." Glasgow Sch. Dist., 572 S.W.3d at
547 (citation omitted). "A final, appealable judgment
resolves all issues in a case, leaving nothing for future
determination." Archdekin v. Archdekin, 562
S.W.3d 298, 304 (Mo. 2018) (citation and internal quotation
finality issue arises in this case because the prayer for
relief in the Rubys' petition asked the circuit court to
"[a]ward [the Rubys] their costs, including
reasonable attorneys' fees for defense of the title to
the property." (Emphasis added.) The circuit
court's judgment did not address the Rubys'
entitlement to attorney's fees.
unresolved claim for attorney's fees can arrest
the finality of a judgment, and defeat appellate
jurisdiction. Although the judgment in this case did not
address the attorney's fee issue, we conclude for two
independent reasons that the circuit court's judgment is
final and appealable.
the Rubys did not properly plead a claim for attorney's
fees against the Troupes. Although the prayer for relief of
the Rubys' petition requested an award of attorney's
[a] prayer for relief, considered in isolation, is not a
claim for relief. "Although it is sometimes said that
the prayer is no part of the petition, it is more accurate to
state that the relief prayed for is no part of
plaintiff's cause of action or claim for
relief." In other words, the prayer for relief
against the [defendants] only has meaning when considered in
context with the cause of action asserted by the [plaintiff]
against the [defendants] in the . . . Petition.
State ex rel. Moore v. Ligons, 532 S.W.3d 719, 723
(Mo. App. S.D. 2017) (quoting Wear v. Walker, 800
S.W.2d 99, 102 (Mo. App. S.D. 1990); emphasis added by
Ligons); see also State ex rel. Hammerstein v.
Hess, 472 S.W.2d 362, 364 (Mo. 1971); HFC Invs., LLC
v. Valley View State Bank, 361 S.W.3d 450, 454-55 (Mo.
App. W.D. 2012) (collecting cases, and describing the limited
circumstances in which courts have looked to a prayer for
relief to determine the nature of a plaintiff's claims).
respect to attorney's fees, Missouri follows the
"American Rule," "which provides that each
litigant should bear his or her own expenses." Barr
v. Mo. State Dep't of Soc. Servs., 565 S.W.3d 683,
691 (Mo. App. W.D. 2018) (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). There are recognized exceptions to the
American Rule, however. "Attorney fees are recoverable
in two situations: when a statute specifically authorizes
recovery and when the contract provides for attorney
fees." Lucas Stucco & EIFS Design, LLC v.
Landau, 324 S.W.3d 444, 446 (Mo. 2010) (citation
awarded attorney's fees, a party must plead a basis for
an award of fees, in addition to simply including a request
for attorney's fees in its prayer for relief. Thus, in
Buckner v. Burnett, 908 S.W.2d 908 (Mo. App. W.D.
1995), we held that a plaintiff had failed to adequately
plead a claim for attorney's fees under an open records
statute, where the petition failed to allege a purposeful
statutory violation that would support a fee award.
Id. at 912. Although the prayer for relief in the
plaintiff's petition requested attorney's fees, we
held that was not enough: "[t]hat [plaintiff's]
prayer for relief asked for reasonable attorney fees does not
aid him." Id.; see also Lucas Stucco,
324 S.W.3d at 446 (that a plaintiff had adequately pleaded a
claim for attorney's fees where it "has pleaded the
necessary elements of the [statute under which attorney's
fees were recoverable] and has requested that relief in the
prayer"); Scheck Indus. Corp. v. Tarlton Corp.,
435 S.W.3d 705, 732-33 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014) (finding that
"the facts pleaded and relief prayed [in ...