Cassens should have known it would be sued, plaintiff attorney argues

Steve Korris Jan. 25, 2008, 6:38am

Attorneys who never stop suing Cassens family businesses argue that the family must always act as if they know the attorneys will sue them again.

Thomas Maag alleges in Madison County circuit court that Cassens Transport scrapped a tractor trailer without the consent of plaintiff Keith Yount - even though Yount had not sued Cassens Transport when it scrapped the rig.

Maag included the allegation in the fifth version of a complaint he filed against Cassens businesses and Georgia trailer maker Cottrell Inc., in 2006.

Maag practices with Brian Wendler, who for years has represented Teamster truckers in injury suits against Cassens businesses and Cottrell.

Representing Yount along with Maag and Wendler is Charles Armbruster of the Lakin Law Firm.

Yount, an Ohio resident, claims he suffered an injury in Missouri while loading cars on a Cottrell rig for Cassens Transport, his employer.

"Prior to the filing of said lawsuit, unknown to plaintiffs, Cassens Transport Company either destroyed the particular tractor and trailer, or, alternatively, arranged to have someone else destroy it," Maag complained.

He wrote that drivers Brdar, Belton, Huff, Lavesy, Massey, Hinz, Clark, Piotter, Swank, Arms and Jensen have been injured on this rig or similar rigs, "resulting in a substantial quantity of litigation against and/or concerning this defendant."

"Cassens Transport Company was aware of the need to preserve tangible evidence for lawsuit purposes," Maag wrote.

Cassens Transport "has specifically been made aware by courts, including this court, that it has a duty to preserve evidence, and can be sued for violating that duty," he wrote.

Cassens Transport "knew or should have known that plaintiffs would be in need of an opportunity to inspect the tractor trailer in question and its component parts," he argued.

Cassens Transport owed Yount a duty to notify him of plans to scrap the rig or let him inspect it first, he argued.

The first two counts of the complaint alleged strict liability and negligence against Jeff Cassens as trustee of the Jill Cassens Trust.

The next three counts alleged strict liability, negligence and implied warranty against Cassens & Sons.

The sixth count alleged that Cassens Corporation is an alter ego of Cassens & Sons, and not a holding company.

That allegation set up counts against Cassens Corporation for negligence, breach of contract, consumer fraud, equitable estoppel and fraud.

Maag attacked Cassens Corporation as "a thinly capitalized sham to avoid liability and to protect the family assets."

Three counts of consortium followed on behalf of Cindy Yount, against Cassens & Sons, Cassens Corporation and Jeff Cassens.

Next, Maag presented a count without a title, against Cottrell.

Three counts followed, without titles, against Cassens business Maryville Releasing.

Maag then presented two counts for Keith Yount and two for Cindy Yount against Cassens Transport, for scrapping the rig.

He wrote that the defendant's motives were "to deter the filing of product liability claims by its employees, to drive up costs of litigation in claims filed by its employees and to ultimately increase its profits/reduce its expenses associated with lawsuits…"

Maag ended with two counts for Keith Yount and two for Cindy Yount against Jeff Cassens, for scrapping the rig.

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack presides over the case.

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