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K.M.R. v. D.G.B.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

September 24, 2019

K.M.R., Respondent,
v.
D.G.B., II, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Lynne R. Perkins

          KURT S. ODENWALD, JUDGE

         Introduction

         Appellant D.G.B., II ("D.G.B.") appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting a full order of protection against him. On appeal, D.G.B. argues that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction due to improper service of process under Section 455.040[1] and that the trial court lacked substantial evidence to support its conclusion that D.G.B. had committed stalking under Section 455.010. Because the record does not show that D.G.B. received proper service of process, we hold that the trial court improperly exercised personal jurisdiction over D.G.B. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand with directions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         Factual and Procedural History

         In September 2018, K.M.R. sought both an ex parte order of protection and a full order of protection against her neighbor D.G.B. K.M.R.'s petition (the "Petition") consisted of fourteen pages: five pages were a court form (one page of which expressly stated that it should not be served), and nine pages were appended hand-written and typed materials describing various incidents between D.G.B. and either K.M.R. or other neighbors. Several pages of the Petition contained K.M.R.'s personal information, such as her address, date of birth, home phone number, and place of employment.

         Subsequently, the trial court issued an ex parte order of protection (the "Protection Order") against D.G.B. The Protection Order consisted of three pages: two pages were a form completed by the trial court and the third page was a return form to be completed at a later time by whoever effected service. Aside from her full name, the Protection Order did not contain any of K.M.R.'s personal information.

         A few days later, a police officer filed a return (the "Return") stating that process was served on D.G.B. on September 8, 2018. The Return consisted of four pages which, except for a few additions, were identical to the Protection Order. The additional page was nearly blank, appearing to be the reverse side of one of the other pages of the Protection Order. The police officer did not complete the return form provided on page three of the Protection Order; rather, the police officer affixed text completed in part by stamp and in part by hand providing that the police officer delivered a "copy of the same to the within named defendant [D.G.B.]." Certain information requested by the return form, such as the method of service, was not specified.

         D.G.B. moved to quash service in the trial court. D.G.B. did not dispute that he was served the Protection Order. Rather, D.G.B. stated that he was not served the Petition as required by Section 455.040.2.

         The trial court held a hearing on the motion to quash to determine what documents had been served on D.G.B. The first witness to testify was D.G.B.'s father ("Father"), who lived with D.G.B. at the time. Father testified that two police officers approached D.G.B. and Father's home and placed some papers in their mailbox. One of the police officers informed Father that they had properly served the Protection Order. Father then retrieved the papers from the mailbox, which only consisted of two or three pages containing what he described as "order of protection information."

         K.M.R. testified next. K.M.R. called the police on September 8 because she believed D.G.B. was violating the Protection Order. K.M.R. possessed two copies of what she identified as the Petition because "when you get a petition you get two copies" and "one is a police copy." Police officers arrived, and one of the police officers took a copy of the Petition. The police officer told K.M.R., "I'm only going to give [D.G.B.] the top three or four sheets because the rest of it has sensitive information and I don't want [D.G.B.] to have that sensitive information." The sensitive information referred to by the officer included K.M.R.'s address. K.M.R. handed the police officer three or four pages, which she testified included the list of incidents based on which the trial court granted the Protection Order. Due to their proximity as neighbors, K.M.R. overheard the police officer tell Father that D.G.B. was being served and that the police officer was placing the pages in Father and D.G.B.'s mailbox.

         Following the taking of evidence, the trial court acknowledged uncertainty about what documents were served on D.G.B.:

I don't know what was served upon [D.G.B.]. While [K.M.R.] did indicate that she believes the [police] officers took three or four pages to serve him with, I don't know what ...

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