Court upholds multi-million judgment for partners in Clayton garage group

By Sam Knef | Apr 21, 2017

ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District has dismissed an appeal brought by an operator of a Clayton parking garage and office building, which had sought relief from a judgment in excess of $5.6 million. 

In a ruling issued April 11, the court said its dismissal was due to a lack of timely appeal brought by Apex Clayton Inc., a company that acquires, constructs, leases and operates various structures, including an office building and parking garage in the downtown Clayton business district.

The case originated in St. Louis County Circuit Court in 2010, in an action brought by partners to the ownership group that sought to be bought out by Apex Clayton. The partners sued when Apex Clayton refused to comply with what they claimed was a forced sale clause in a partnership agreement, the ruling states.

Following a four-day jury trial in June 2015, partners Gary S. Heifetz, Jeffrey S. Gershman, Steven B. Spewak, Jean Maylack, Fallon Maylack and Steven M. Stone, individually and as on behalf of the estate of Sidney L. Stone and Sidney M. Stone, were granted judgment on claims of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and a punitive damages award.

Jurors found the value of the partners' ownership interests to be $2,804,689 on the contract claim, and awarded $2.8 million in punitive damages, the ruling states. On their fiduciary duty claim, the jury found awarded "nominal" damages of $1,000 to each plaintiff.

The trial court entered judgment on June 26, 2015, the ruling states. A month later, the plaintiffs asked for attorneys' fees and expert witness costs on the contract claims.

It was not until July 27, 2015, that Apex Clayton filed an after-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for new trial, the ruling states.

Three months later, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion for fees and costs, while also denying Apex Clayton's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. On the same day, Oct. 26, 2015, the court entered an amended judgment which included the verdict amounts reached by the jury and the fees awarded by the court, the ruling states.

Finally, Apex Clayton filed another motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, for a new trial or to amend the judgment on Nov. 10, 2015, which the court never acted on, the ruling states.

Nearly four months from the time the trial court entered its amended judgment, Apex filed a notice of appeal.

The three-judge panel found Apex's appeal to be more than three months late.

"Apex’s failure to file a timely notice of appeal from the Judgment, and its subsequent failure to seek a special order from this court under Rule 81.07, deprives this court of jurisdiction to hear Apex’s appeal of the six individual judgments entered in favor of the individual Limited Partners in the Judgment," wrote Justice Mary K. Hoff.

Justices Robert Clayton III and Lisa Page concurred.

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