Grantor created a lifetime trust and named her nephews as beneficiaries. Grantor named her late husband’s niece and the niece’s husband as trustees. In June 2007, Grantor purportedly executed several amendments to the trust which the beneficiaries claim were not properly executed. These amendments gave property to the trustees and other persons, including family members of the trustees. The property conveyed by these amendments included two farms. Grantor died shortly thereafter.
The beneficiaries sued the trustees seeking a number of remedies. Following a consent judgment that dismissed a number of claims and parties, the beneficiaries filed an amended petition seeking a declaratory judgment voiding the amendment based on undue influence and failure to comply with the express terms of the trust, and seeking to set aside the deed conveying one of the farms. Meanwhile, the trustees filed a final accounting in accordance with the consent judgment. The beneficiaries filed objections to this accounting.
Warren County Circuit Court, Hamlett, J., Held:
The court issued its judgment on the final accounting and ruled that “this Judgment is final for the purpose of appeal pursuant to Section 512.020 RSMo.” The trustees appealed, though the action involving the gifts of the farms remained pending at the time of appeal.
Court of Appeals, Mooney, J., Held:
Dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Appellate review requires a final judgment and where the judgment lacks finality, the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case. A final, appealable judgment leaves nothing for future determination. The only exception is under Rule 74.01(b) where a trial court may enter judgment on a single claim and certify its judgment as final and appealable upon an express determination that no just reason for delay exists.
Here, the trial court did not designate its judgment as a final judgment under Rule 74.01(b) and made no express finding that there was no reason for delay. Even if the court had made an express finding of no reason for delay, the designation would have been improper. Rule 74.01 requires “one claim” to be disposed of. The trial court did not dispose of “one claim” here, but instead merely entered judgment on the final accounting, disposing of one of several remedies. The court considered the “claims” to be breach of fiduciary duty and self-dealing by the trustees. The final accounting alone did not dismiss either claim and was interwoven with the open issue of the deeds to the farms. Thus, the judgment was not final and not appealable.