A three-judge Missouri appeals court panel ruled Tuesday that Miller County Circuit Judge Kenneth Hayden was correct in dismissing David Stichler’s March 2016 amended wrongful death lawsuit — and in approving a settlement that didn’t include Stichler.
Stichler sued Chaz David Jesiolowski, 27, of Eldon, and Fang-piau Kao, of Springfield, in September 2015 over a July 7, 2015, collision that killed his daughter, Mickey Stichler, 20, of Eldon, and her unborn child.
Mickey Stichler was a passenger in Jesiolowski’s 2008 Pontiac G6 when, the Highway Patrol reported, he failed to obey a stop sign and drove into U.S. 54 from Cave Drive in Miller County — where the Pontiac was hit by Kao’s eastbound 2003 Infiniti G35.
In his amended lawsuit, Stichler said he should be appointed as the unborn baby’s representative and heir, because the father was not known.
But, Jesiolowski countered, he was the baby’s father.
Mickey’s mother and sister also told the circuit court that Jesiolowski was Mickey’s fiancé.
And, the appeals court noted, Jesiolowski filed his own wrongful death suit against Pao and asked the court to dismiss Stichler’s suit.
In a 10-page ruling written by Judge Gary Witt, the appeals court said state law defines three classes of “parties with an interest who may bring suit,” and grandparents fall into the third class, behind parents, siblings and descendants.
“Therefore,” Witt wrote for the court, “if Jesiolowski is established as the natural father of Child, he is a member of the first class and entitled to bring this action, and the court did not have the statutory authority to appoint Stichler (Child’s grandfather) as a plaintiff ad litem under the third class.”
Among his findings in the April 5, 2017, ruling in the original case, Hayden determined “Jesiolowski is the natural and biological father of the unborn child of Mickey Stichler” and he was the proper beneficiary under Missouri law for any payments in a wrongful death suit.
Because of Hayden’s ruling that Jesiolowski was the unborn baby’s father, Witt wrote, David Stichler “is not a proper party” to file the appeal — even though he was the first to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Witt explained: “As a general matter, because Stichler is not a party to the action from which he appeals and not aggrieved by the judgment of that action, he has no right to appeal.”