Judge Approves Purple Swing Set!

guest blog by Nila Ridings

The Stout family is celebrating around the purple swing set tonight! It’s not going away. The parents are not going to jail. The kids can smile and be happy while swinging to their hearts content.

The Raintree Lake board of directors (Missouri) just wasted a lot of money on legal bills and put their HOA on national news. Not to mention the story went viral on the internet. Let’s HOPE they learned something from this case.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the court ruling:

FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff Raintree Lake Home Owners Association (hereinafter “Raintree Lake” or “Plaintiff Raintree Lake”) filed its Petition for Mandatory Injunction and Associated Relief on December 29, 2014, requesting that the Court order Defendants Lewis W. Stout, Jr. and Marla R. Stout (hereinafter “Defendants”) to remove their purple-colored swing set from their property and the subdivision, that the Court award fines, and that the Court award reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred.

Defendants filed their answer to Plaintiff’s Petition for Mandatory Injunction and Associated Relief on February 27, 2015, asserting various affirmative defenses.
A trial on the merits was conducted on August 21, 2015 before this Court.
Plaintiff presented evidence alleging that Defendants were parties to
“Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions” (hereinafter “Restriction Agreement”), dated October 29, 1973, and that Defendants were in violation of Article VII, Section 3 of the Restriction Agreement by the erection of the purple swing set at issue in the above-captioned matter.

Article VII, Section 3 of the Restriction Agreement provides that Defendants will not make “improvements, alterations, repairs, change of paint colors, excavations, changes in grade or other work which in any way alters the exterior of any property or the improvements located thereon” or “as relates to any structure on the property to commence it, erect it, make it, or do it” without prior written approval of the property owners association’s Architectural Review Board.

Plaintiff Raintree Lake presented evidence suggesting that Defendants were in breach of the Restriction Agreement when they erected a purple-colored swing set on their property without the written approval of the Architectural Review Board.
Defendants presented evidence that attempts were made to obtain the approval of the Architecture Review Board but that an arbitrary standard was used by the Board, preventing the approval.

Defendants also presented testimony that the color of the swing set met the requirement as set forth in the Raintree Lake Property Owners Association Architectural Review Board Guidelines which states for swings sets and play equipment: “Color: must be subdued and within harmony with other colors of the community including slides, swings and canopies.”

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Plaintiff Raintree Lake failed to establish that it is entitled to injunctive relief pursuant to § 526.030, R.S.Mo., and is therefore not entitled to judgment on its Petition for Mandatory Injunction and Associated Relief. An action seeking an injunction is an action in equity. “An injunction is an extraordinary and harsh remedy and should not be granted where there is an adequate remedy at law.” City of Greenwood v. Martin Marietta Materials, Inc., 311 S.W.3d 258, 265 (Mo. App. 2010) citing City of Kansas City v. N.Y.-Kan. Bldg. Assocs., L.P., 96 S.W. 3d 846, 855 (Mo. App. W.D. 2002). The elements for a claim for injunction include: (1) irreparable harm, and (2) lack of adequate remedy at law. Id. Irreparable harm may be found when pecuniary remedies fail to provide adequate reimbursement for the improper behavior. Id. at 266. There is no “adequate remedy at law” when damages will not adequately compensate the plaintiff for the injury or threatened injury. Id. at 265-266.

Plaintiff Raintree Lake failed to present evidence as to the element of irreparable harm. There was no evidence presented to this Court that Plaintiff Raintree Lake will or has suffered irreparable harm as a result of the erection and/or color of the swing set. Although, as stated previously, irreparable harm may be found when pecuniary remedies fail to provide adequate reimbursement for the improper behavior, the evidence before the Court was that Defendants were initially fined in regards to the swing set but that fine was then set aside by Plaintiff Raintree Lake’s own Appeals Board. Plaintiff Raintree Lake failed to meet the first element required under Missouri law for permanent injunctive relief and therefore is not entitled to the relief requested in its Petition for Mandatory Injunction and Associated Relief. As the Court has found that Plaintiff Raintree Lake failed to prove the element of irreparable harm, the Court finds that it is unnecessary to address the second element, that there is no adequate remedy at law.

JUDGMENT
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Court finds
in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff as to Plaintiff’s Petition for Mandatory Injunction and Associated Relief.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Plaintiff’s request for the award of fines is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Plaintiff’s request for reasonable attorney fees is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Defendants’ request for reasonable attorney fees is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date:August 28, 2015

 

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About

Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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