Ghost Tortfeasor/Non-Party Liability, Negligence

A negligence case generally requires that a plaintiff prove a (1) legal duty on the part of the defendant to conform to a certain standard of conduct, (2) a breach of the duty, (3) proximate cause between the conduct and the resulting injury and (4) damages. Hoover’s Dairy, Inc. v. Mid-America Dairymen, 700 S.W.2d 426, 431 (Mo. 1985).

A defendant will contest any of these elements where possible. In some instances, a defendant may state that any liability should be assigned to another defendant — or even to some other person who is not a party to the lawsuit. Missouri law permits this: “evidence that a third party caused the injury may be relevant and necessary to the jury’s determination of the negligence and causation issues.” Whisenand v. McCord, 966 S.W.2d 528, 531 (Mo. Ct. App. 1999).


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