August 1, 2014
by Danielle E. Marler
South & Associates, P.C. – USFN Member (Kansas, Missouri)
On July 9, 2014, the Missouri governor signed House Bill 1410 into law. The most significant change the new law will bring is removing the right to a trial de novo in unlawful detainer and landlord-tenant actions. H.B. 1410’s proponents advocated that the bill would reduce court costs and end a “wasteful process” of forestalling the eviction process.
Currently, after judgment has been entered against the defendant, the defendant has 10 days in which to file an application for a trial de novo. Essentially, a trial de novo is a new trial giving the losing party another bite at the apple. After the trial de novo hearing is held in circuit court, either party may appeal the judgment of the circuit court to the Missouri Court of Appeals. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 512, et seq. The defendant must post a bond in the full amount of the judgment to stay the execution of the judgment for restitution and proceed with the trial de novo. If the application is not filed and the bond is not posted within that time frame, the plaintiff can proceed to lockout by filing a writ of execution with the court.
Once H.B. 1410 goes into effect on August 28, 2014, parties will no longer be able to file an application for a trial de novo. Instead, the losing party must file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the trial court. As with the trial de novo, to stay execution of judgment for restitution, the filing party must also post a bond in the full amount of the judgment. The notice of appeal must be filed within 10 days of final judgment. Id.
Unlike a trial de novo, however, the appeal will not be a re-trial of the issues. Rather, the appellate court will affirm the trial court’s judgment “unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the manifest weight of the evidence, it erroneously declares the law, or it erroneously applies the law.” Colt Investments, L.L.C. v. Boyd, 419 S.W.3d 194, 196 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013). The deference given to the prevailing party could dissuade defendants from appealing. Although the filing fee for a notice of appeal is only nominally higher than the filing fee for a trial de novo in most jurisdictions, the increased formality of the Court of Appeals could in and of itself be a deterrent. Regardless, eliminating the right to a trial de novo should be effective at reducing court costs and facilitating the eviction process.
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