A lis pendens (“suit pending”) is a document which notifies everyone that there is a lawsuit pending regarding a given piece of real estate. The basis for a lis pendens in Missouri is codified in Missouri Statutes. Section 527.260 provides in pertinent part that:
“In any civil action, based on any equitable right, claim or lien, affecting or designed to affect real estate, the plaintiff shall file for record, with the recorder of deeds of the county in which any such real estate is situated, a written notice of the pendency of the suit, stating the names of the parties, the style of the action and the term of the court to which such suit is brought, and a description of the real estate liable to be affected thereby; and the pendency of such suit shall be constructive notice to purchasers or encumbrancers, only from the time of filing such notice.”
In effect, this filing provides notice to potential purchasers of a pending real estate suit, which may affect title to property, and its purpose is to preserve rights pending the outcome of litigation. When a lis pendens has a reasonable relation to the action filed, absolute privilege attached to its recordation. Missouri does not place any limitations or qualifications on the absolute privilege it accords lis pendens notices.
Putting aside the legal concerns, as a practical matter, few purchasers, particularly real estate speculators, will be willing to acquire property subject to a lis pendens. Title checks are customarily conducted before the conveyance of real estate and a lis pendens will cloud the title. A purchaser will not be willing to acquire land which may be severely affected when the lawsuit concludes. It is just too big of a risk.
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