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Casework, Inc. v. Hardwood Associates, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

April 28, 2015

CASEWORK, INC., Respondent,
v.
HARDWOOD ASSOCIATES, INC., ET AL., Appellants, HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent

Modified June 2, 2015.

Page 623

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clay County, Missouri. Honorable Kathryn Elizabeth Davis, Judge.

For Appellants: Jonathan Sternberg, Kansas City, MO.

For Casework, Inc., Respondent: James Freeman, III, Kansas City, MO.

For Hanover Insurance, Respondent: Scott Sullivan, Liberty, MO.

Before Division One: James Edward Welsh, P.J., Thomas H. Newton, and Karen King Mitchell, JJ. Welsh, P.J., and Mitchell, J. concur.

OPINION

Page 624

Thomas H. Newton, Judge

Hardwood Associates, Inc., and Hardwood Associates Nationwide, LLC (collectively Hardwood), appeals the judgment in favor of Casework, Inc., after a bench-tried case. Hardwood argues that the trial court erred in determining that personal jurisdiction existed and in requiring a non-lawyer to represent a corporation at trial. We affirm.

Factual and Procedural History

Casework, a now-defunct Missouri corporation, and Hardwood, an Iowa subcontractor company, entered into an agreement to work on a project in Colorado. To form the agreement, Hardwood submitted a bid to Casework by e-mail, and the parties exchanged several e-mails, which included various drafts of the agreement. Although Hardwood did not sign the final agreement, it began work in Colorado. Additionally, Hardwood's president, Mr. Michael Pothoff, visited Missouri three times for in-person meetings with representatives of Casework to renegotiate the terms.

A disagreement ensued between the parties, and Casework filed suit against Hardwood in Missouri for breach of contract and interference with a business relationship and expectations related to the Colorado project. Hardwood filed an answer in Missouri; the answer raised counterclaims against Casework for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Hardwood also filed suit in Colorado against (1) Casework to foreclose on its mechanic's lien, and (2) Hanover Insurance Co. (Hanover), which provided Casework's surety bonds for the project, for third-party indemnification. Hardwood later added Hanover to the Missouri lawsuit as a third-party defendant. Additionally, Hardwood filed a motion to dismiss the Missouri case for lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens. The Missouri trial court denied the motion.

Before trial, Hardwood's counsel withdrew from the Missouri case. Hardwood did not file an objection to counsel's withdrawal.

Page 625

However, Hardwood retained counsel for the ...


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