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Muza v. Muza

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

December 23, 2014

MICHAEL LEE MUZA, Respondent,
v.
DENA LEANN MUZA, Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY. THE HONORABLE KENNETH R. GARRETT, JUDGE.

Jill K. Shipman-Dehardt, Lee's Summit for respondent, for appellant.

Dana M. Outlaw, Lee's Summit, Mo. for appellant, for respondent.

BEFORE: THOMAS H. NEWTON, PRESIDING JUDGE, LISA WHITE HARDWICK AND ANTHONY REX GABBERT, JUDGES. ALL CONCUR.

OPINION

Lisa White Hardwick, Judge

Page 327

This appeal arises from the circuit court's division of property in the judgment dissolving the marriage of Michael Muza (" Husband" ) and Dena Muza (" Wife" ). Wife contends the court erred in classifying the future proceeds from a pending lawsuit as marital property. Because Wife failed to appear at trial and did not present evidence to overcome the presumption of marital property, we find no error and affirm the judgment.

Factual and Procedural History

Husband and Wife were married on July 8, 2000. Two children were born of the marriage. On April 16, 2013, Husband filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, for which he later amended. Wife filed an Answer and a Counter-Petition for Dissolution. During discovery, Wife failed to comply with the standard dissolution requests that were due on June 23, 2013. The trial court ordered Wife to provide discovery responses by January 3, 2014, and further ordered that discovery was to close on January 10, 2014.

Prior to trial, the court struck Wife's pleadings as a sanction for failure to comply with both the discovery order and an order for payment of guardian ad litem fees. The court also granted the motion of Wife's counsel of record to withdraw on the basis that Wife had ceased communication with her attorneys.

Wife failed to appear at the dissolution trial. Husband presented evidence of the marital assets and debts. One of the items listed as a marital asset was a pending lawsuit that Wife had filed against her former employer, AT& T Mobility Services (" AT& T" ). Husband's attorney requested the trial court to take judicial notice of Husband's Exhibit 6--which was a copy of the petition that Wife had filed against AT& T.

Page 328

In the pending lawsuit against AT& T, Wife alleged that she was fired on November 22, 2011, in retaliation for her complaints regarding sexual harassment at work. Wife initially filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (" MCHR" ) on May 18, 2012. She later received a right to sue notice and filed suit against AT& T in the Jackson County Circuit Court on April 1, 2013. In her petition, Wife alleged that she suffered substantial damages, including: " lost past and future income and employee benefits, humiliation, mental distress, harm to reputation and severe career disruption, plus other pecuniary and non-pecuniary actual damages..."

Following the dissolution trial, the court entered a judgment classifying the lawsuit as marital property and awarding Husband 50% of any damages ...


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