Louis J. Basso


Court: Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, Division Two

Date published: Mar 30, 2004


In May of 1990, Gary Claus (“Claus”) was involved in an automobile accident in which his car struck another car that was carrying four individuals. Two of those passengers were killed during the accident and the other two passengers suffered injuries. Following the accident, Claus, who had been driving while intoxicated, pled guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Jennifer Tobin Harcrow and Phyllis Inman Freeman (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed separate civil suits against Claus to recover damages for personal injury and wrongful death, respectively. Ultimately, Jennifer Tobin Harcrow was awarded $2,500,000 in damages for her injuries and Phyllis Inman Freeman was awarded $800,000 in damages for the wrongful death of her son. Both damage awards were obtained via default judgments against Claus, who, before the commencement of the trials, filed a declaration with the trial courts in which he stated that he was incarcerated and uncounseled and that he intended to avoid appearance.



The trial court correctly ruled that the trustee was without authority to assign to Plaintiff Claus’ legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims; thus, the Plaintiffs lack standing to sue on the state law tort claims. Consequently, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in their favor is affirmed.

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