JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court has issued a ruling that tenants are entitled to a jury trial in eviction proceedings.
In a unanimous opinion issued by Justice Mary R. Russell on Dec. 5, the Supreme Court reversed a trial court’s judgment denying Stephanie Cameron’s request for a jury trial and a ruling in favor of Brainchild Holdings LLC.
Cameron was sued by Brainchild after defaulting on rent payments. She filed a lawsuit and the trial court, citing 2014 statutory amendments to rent and possession suits under Chapter 535, denied her request for a jury trial and conducted a bench trial.
Cameron then appealed the decision.
Cameron rented the apartment from Brainchild; and soon after moving in, she allegedly had problems with the apartment, including an air conditioner and toilet that didn’t work. Other problems cited included windows that would not stay open, tripping hazards caused by loose floor tiles, improperly installed smoke detectors, a stove that didn’t work and no gas service for several months.
Despite Cameron’s requests to Brainchild to fix the issues, the apartment wasn’t repaired.
Brainchild brought a rent and possession action in the associate circuit division against Cameron after she fell behind on rent payments.
Cameron asked for a jury trial, claiming that the apartment’s condition nullified the implied warranty of habitability.
Citing Chapter 535, the trial court sided with Brainchild and ruled Cameron was not entitled to a jury trial.
Following a bench trial, the trial court issued a judgment in favor of Brainchild.
The Supreme Court also pointed out that the Missouri Constitution already extends the right to trial by jury in most contract cases.
Illegal evictions remain a civil issue in Missouri and residents have to go to court to gain access to their possessions if they are locked out.
The landlord-tenant laws in Missouri are designed to protect tenants with unresponsive landlords. It also provides landlords with protections from destructive tenants and potential squatters.