United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
JOHN M. BESHEARS, Plaintiff,
ANDREW PATRICK WOOD, Defendant.
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 10.)
Defendant seeks dismissal pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), alleging that Plaintiff's
First Amended Complaint (doc. 8) fails to establish subject
matter jurisdiction, and also fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Upon review, the action will be
DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
brings this action against Defendant, a licensed attorney in
the State of Missouri, for legal malpractice in Count 1 and
for breach of fiduciary duty/constructive fraud in Count 2.
Plaintiff alleges that on June 26, 2009, he was injured in an
automobile accident which also resulted in the death of his
wife. (Doc. 8 ¶ 4.) On July 1, 2009, Defendant, on
behalf of Charles V. Reynolds and Ruth Ann Reynolds (the
“Reynolds”), filed a petition for guardianship of
Plaintiff and conservatorship of the estate of Plaintiff in
the Probate Court of McDonald County, Missouri (the
“probate court”). (Id. ¶ 7.) On
July 7, 2009, the probate court appointed the Reynolds as
co-guardians of Plaintiff and co-conservators of his estate.
(Id. ¶ 10.) At some point thereafter, Plaintiff
retained attorney Jason Higdon to represent him in the
probate court action. (Id. at 13.) On October 3,
2012, Plaintiff was restored to his full rights and
capacities. (Id. ¶ 12.)
alleges that “prior to the accident on June 26, 2009,
 Defendant  had been the personal and professional
attorney for  Plaintiff and his wife for a number of years,
representing them concerning their assets which were the
subject of the conservatorship.” (Id. ¶
13.) He also claims that at the time of the accident,
Defendant was representing Plaintiff and his wife in case
number 07NW-CV02181, Beshears, et al. v. Clark & Sons
Constr., in the Circuit Court of Newton County,
Missouri, and continued to represent Plaintiff in that civil
case until judgment on July 19, 2012. (Id. ¶
support of both counts, Plaintiff makes several factual
allegations regarding Defendant's actions and/or failures
to act in the proceedings before the probate court.
(Id. ¶¶ 20, 25.) Plaintiff seeks actual
damages from Defendant for loss of assets, damage to assets,
and emotional stress, along with punitive damages.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)
matter jurisdiction “is a threshold requirement which
must be assured in every federal case.” Turner v.
Armontrout, 922 F.2d 492, 493 (8th Cir. 1991). If the
court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(h)(3). Subject matter jurisdiction may be based on a
federal question pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or
diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity of
citizenship among the parties and an amount in controversy
exceeding $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
concedes that the amended complaint meets the pleading
requirements for diversity of citizenship under Section 1332.
(Doc. 11 at 2 n.2.) Despite this, Defendant contends the
amended complaint fails to establish subject matter
jurisdiction for two reasons. First, Defendant asserts the
action is an impermissible collateral attack on the orders
and judgments of the probate court. Second, Defendant argues
the Rooker-Feldman and Younger abstention
doctrines preclude subject matter jurisdiction.
Impermissible Collateral Attack
first proposes that the amended complaint is an impermissible
collateral attack on the orders and judgments rendered in the
underlying probate matter. Defendant argues that Plaintiff is
the Probate Court's jurisdiction over him, whether the
Reynolds were qualified to perform the duties of guardian and
conservator, whether a bond should have been filed, whether
an appraisal of assets was necessary, the correctness of the
inventory and appraisement of the estate, when an annual
settlement of the estate was properly filed, whether an
annual guardian report should have been filed, and whether
the Reynolds misappropriated money from the estate.
11 at 4.) According to Defendant, these are matters that