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Holding v. Kansas City Area Transportation Authority

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

August 27, 2019

LINDA A. HOLDING, Appellant,
v.
KANSAS CITY AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County The Honorable Kevin D. Harrell, Judge

          Before: Cynthia L. Martin, P.J., and Victor C. Howard and Alok Ahuja, JJ.

          ALOK AHUJA, JUDGE

         Linda Holding sued the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority ("KCATA") in the Circuit Court of Jackson County. She alleged that on three separate occasions when she was traveling as a passenger on KCATA buses, she suffered injuries as a result of the negligence of the bus drivers. The case was tried, and a jury returned a verdict for KCATA. The circuit court entered judgment accordingly. Holding appeals. Because of the significant deficiencies in Holding's briefing, and her failure to provide an adequate record, we dismiss Holding's appeal.

         Analysis

         The requirements for appellate briefing are set forth in Rule 84.04. "Compliance with Rule 84.04 briefing requirements is mandatory in order to ensure that appellate courts do not become advocates by speculating on facts and on arguments that have not been made." Hiner v. Hiner, 573 S.W.3d 732, 734 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "An appellant's failure to substantially comply with Rule 84.04 preserves nothing for our review and constitutes grounds for dismissal of the appeal." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Even though Holding appears pro se, she "is subject to the same procedural rules as parties represented by counsel, including rules specifying the required contents of appellate briefs." Hoover v. Hoover, No. WD81697, 2019 WL 1904915, at *1 (Mo. App. W.D. April 30, 2019) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Holding's brief fails to comply with Rule 84.04 in multiple significant respects. First, her statement of facts does not comply with Rule 84.04(c). "Rule 84.04(c) requires appellants to include 'a fair and concise statement of the facts relevant to the questions presented for determination without argument.'" Interest of D.A.B., 570 S.W.3d 606, 613 (Mo. App. E.D. 2019) (citation omitted). "The primary purpose of the statement of facts is to afford an immediate, accurate, complete and unbiased understanding of the facts of the case." Hiner, 573 S.W.3d at 735 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, "all statements of facts shall have specific page references to the relevant portion of the record on appeal, i.e., legal file, transcript, or exhibits." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Holding's eight-page statement of facts is not a fair and concise statement of the facts relevant to the questions presented. Instead, it is one-sided and argumentative, and the majority of Holding's factual assertions are not supported by citations to the record. Upon review of the few record citations which do appear in Holding's factual statement, they do not support the factual assertions to which they are attached. Moreover, Holding's factual statement does not clearly explain the procedural history of the case; indeed, from her factual statement, it is unclear whether the circuit court ruled against her on summary judgment, or following a jury trial. "It is not the role of an appellate court to serve as an advocate for a litigant, and 'we have no duty to search the transcript or record to discover the facts which substantiate a point on appeal. That is the duty of the parties, not the function of an appellate court.'" Midtown Home Improvements, Inc. v. Taylor, No. ED106721, 2019 WL 1029609, at *2 (Mo. App. E.D. March 5, 2019) (citation omitted).

         Second, Holding's Point Relied On is deficient.

Where, as here, an appellate court is asked to review the decision of a trial court, "each point shall (A) [i]dentify the trial court ruling or action that the appellant challenges; (B) [s]tate concisely the legal reasons for the appellant's claim of reversible error; and (C) [e]xplain in summary fashion why, in the context of the case, those legal reasons support the claim of reversible error." Rule 84.04(d)(1). "The point shall be in substantially the following form: 'The trial court erred in [identify the challenged ruling or action], because [state the legal reasons for the claim of reversible error], in that [explain why the legal reasons, in the context of the case, support the claim of reversible error].'"

Hiner, 573 S.W.3d at 735 (citation omitted; alterations and emphasis in original).

         Holding's Point Relied On fails to comply with Rule 84.04(d).[1] Besides the fact that Holding's Point Relied On contains at least four distinct claims of error, and is thus multifarious, it is not substantially in the form required by Rule 84.04(d)(1). The point does not "[s]tate concisely the legal reasons for the . . . claim of reversible error" or "[e]xplain . . . why, in the context of the case, those legal reasons support the claim or reversible error." Rule 84.04(d)(1). The deficiencies in Holding's Point Relied On are compounded by the fact that she included at least eight different, additional claims of error in the Point Relied On reproduced in her brief's Table of Contents, and in the Standard of Review section of her brief. During oral argument, Holding identified additional alleged errors beyond those mentioned in her brief.

         "The purpose of the points relied on is to give notice to the opposing party of the precise matters which must be contended with and to inform the court of the issues presented for review." Hiner, 573 S.W.3d at 735-36 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

Deficient points relied on force the appellate court to search the argument portion of the brief or the record itself to determine and clarify the appellant's assertions, thereby wasting judicial resources, and, worse yet, creating the danger that the appellate court will interpret the appellant's ...

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