Legal Memorandum: Discovery of a Defendant's Assets in MO

Issue: Under the laws of Missouri, when may a plaintiff obtain discovery as it relates to the ‘financial status’ or financial condition’ of a corporation in a tort action?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Defendant's assets; Financial status or financial condition; Discovery
Jurisdiction: Federal, Missouri
Cited Cases: 55 F.3d 1339; 303 S.W.3d 563; 683 F.3d 671; 391 S.W.3d 441
Cited Statutes: Missouri Revised Statute § 510.263(8); Mo. Rev. Stat. § 510.263(3); Mo. R. Civ. P. 76.28
Date: 12/01/2013

Missouri Revised Statute § 510.263(8) refers to the discovery of a defendant’s “assets,” but it does not mention “financial status” or “financial condition.”  “Assets” and “financial status” are not the same thing.  The legal definition of “assets” relates to property subject to the payment of debts:

The word, though more generally used to denote everything which comes to the representatives of a deceased person, yet is by no means confined to that use, but has come to signify everything which can be made available for the payment of debts . . . and we always use this word when we speak of the means which a party has, as compared with his liabilities or debts.”

Black’s Law Dictionary 151 (4th ed. 1951) (emphasis added).  The dictionary definition of “assets” similarly includes “the entire property of a person, association, corporation, or estate applicable or subject to the payment of debts: an item of value owned: the items on a balance sheet showing the book value of property owned.”  Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed. 1995). 

The terms “financial state,” “financial status” or “financial condition,” in contrast, have a broader connotation and include both assets and debts, providing a more complete picture of what a person owns and what a person owes; it refers to a person’s net worth.  See Cadwell v. Joelson (In re Joelson), 427 F.3d 700, 705-07 (10th Cir. 2005) (“financial condition” as used in Bankruptcy Code refers “to the difference between an […]

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