Minors in Court, Minor Settlements & Contracts
Minors (i.e., those under 18) or those without legal capacity are not permitted to represent themselves in court. If the litigant is a minor, there needs to usually be a next friend appointed with the Court who acts on the minor’s behalf. The next friend, in turn, can retain attorneys and enter into contracts on the minor’s behalf pursuant to 507.182, RSMo. Guardians — those charged with taking care of the person of the minor/ward/protectee — and conservators — those charged with taking care of the finances of the minor/ward/protectee — can do the same thing provided that it is within the scope of the Letters of Guardianship/Conservatorship.
The guardian, conservator, or next friend has the power and authority, subject to approval of the court, to waive a jury trial and submit all issues in a lawsuit or proposed settlement to the court for determination per 507.184, RSMo. At such hearings the court has the power and authority to hear evidence on the reasonableness of the settlement and approve a fee contract between the next friend, guardian, or conservator and an attorney and pay the expenses reasonably incurred in prosecuting the case.
Accordingly, additional requirements must be met in order to settle a minor’s claim, thus prolonging the typical settlement process. From experience, Judges will often require that any funds payable to a minor or protectee be held in a secured account and can only be used on certain terms and conditions.
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