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Bugg v. Rutter

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

April 21, 2015

ELDON BUGG, Appellant,
v.
JAMES L. RUTTER, JEAN GOLDSTEIN, and CHRISTY BLAKEMORE, Respondents

Page 597

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 598

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Moniteau County, Missouri. The Honorable Ralph H. Jaynes, Judge.

Eldon Bugg, Boonville, MO, Appellant, Pro se.

Bruce Farmer, Columbia, MO, Attorney for Respondents Rutter and Goldstein.

Chris Koster, Attorney General, Jefferson City, MO, and Brandon D. Laird, Assistant Attorney General, Kansas City, MO, Attorneys for Respondent Blakemore.

Before Division III: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge, and Gary D. Witt and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges. Gary D. Witt and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges, concur.

OPINION

Page 599

Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge.

Eldon Bugg (" Mr. Bugg" ) appeals from the Judgment of the Circuit Court of Moniteau County, Missouri (" trial court" ), granting summary judgment to James L. Rutter (" Rutter" ), the personal representative of the Estate of Laura Downs (" Estate" ); Jean E. Goldstein (" Goldstein), the attorney for Rutter and the Estate; and Christy Blakemore, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Boone County (" Clerk" ).

All of Mr. Bugg's present civil tort claims relate to the administration of the Estate from a separate probate court proceeding in the Circuit Court of Boone

Page 600

County, Missouri, a probate judgment that we have previously declared to be final and not subject to collateral attack. In fact, we have advised Mr. Bugg in numerous previous appeals that his continuing litigation and appeals are improper collateral attacks on the probate judgment, and we have expressly warned him not to continue such frivolous litigation and appeals. Unfortunately, our warnings to Mr. Bugg have fallen upon deaf ears, and we find ourselves repeating our ruling yet again. This time, however, it comes with a price to Mr. Bugg, as we affirm the judgment and order sanctions to be imposed upon Mr. Bugg.

Factual and Procedural Background

This is the eleventh time the facts of this case have been before us on appeal. Facts in addition to those presented herein may be found in Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 75 S.W.3d 853 (Mo. App. W.D. 2002) (" Bugg I " ); Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 242 S.W.3d 729 (Mo. App. W.D. 2007) (" Bugg II " ); Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 300 S.W.3d 242 (Mo. App. W.D. 2009) (" Bugg III " ); Bugg v. Rutter, 330 S.W.3d 148 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010) (" Bugg IV " ); Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 347 S.W.3d 487 (Mo. App. W.D. 2011) (" Bugg V " ); Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 348 S.W.3d 848 (Mo. App. W.D. 2011) (" Bugg VI " ); State ex rel. Bugg v. Daniels, No. WD74697 (" Bugg VII " ); Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 400 S.W.3d 360 (Mo. App. W.D. 2013) (" Bugg VIII " ); Rutter v. Bugg (Estate of Downs), 437 S.W.3d 814 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014) (" Bugg IX " ); Bugg v. Rutter, 451 S.W.3d 776 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014) (" Bugg X " ).

In Bugg X, though unpublished, we advised Mr. Bugg in a slip opinion that " [w]hile Mr. Bugg may not necessarily be attempting to relitigate the same cause of action adjudicated in the probate case, his claims [in a separate lawsuit from the probate judgment] arise out of the defendants' conduct on behalf of the Estate in collecting from him and distributing $35,248.84. Mr. Bugg had the opportunity to seek relief from the defendants' conduct before the judgment closing the Estate became final." In so doing, we concluded that " Mr. Bugg's petition [filed in a different court from the probate judgment] was an improper collateral attack on the judgment closing the Estate and was barred by res judicata." Bugg X 451 S.W.3d 776, at slip op. 5-6.[1]

This case is virtually identical to the procedural history of the present appeal--an appeal that we are deciding approximately six months after we issued our ruling in Bugg X.

While Mr. Bugg may not necessarily be attempting to relitigate the same causes of action he has previously asserted in the probate case and other collateral litigation, all of his present tort claims arise out of the conduct of Rutter, Goldstein, and the Clerk related to the Estate and the collection and distribution of the same $35,248.84 that was the subject of Bugg X and numerous previous appeals relating to the probate case. Simply put, as we have said on many numerous occasions in the past, Mr. Bugg has already had his opportunity to assert his present tort claims in prior proceedings that have become final and are not subject to collateral attack.

Page 601

On March 18, 2014, the trial court here entered summary judgment in favor of Rutter and Goldstein on the basis that Mr. Bugg's claims were an improper collateral attack of a final judgment involving these parties; the trial court additionally entered summary judgment in ...


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