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Practice Areas

Appeals

  • Civil
  • Domestic
  • Federal
  • State
  • When a litigant believes that the Judge in the trial court has entered a Judgment in error,
    their remedy is an appeal.  Because the Court of Appeals reviews only the issues and evidence
    presented to the trial court, with very few exceptions, and because the Appellant has a high
    burden to sway the appellate court, it is imperative that a litigant retain experienced counsel.
     The appeal process is highly technical and nuanced, and therefore, a less than adept
    presentation will be met with failure.  One obstacle to succeeding as an appellant
    at the Court of Appeals is that in cases tried without a jury, the Judgment will be sustained or
    upheld, unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, unless it is against the weight of
    the evidence, unless it erroneously declares the law, or erroneously applies the law. 
    Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo Banc, 1976).   Furthermore, the Court of Appeals gives deference
    to the findings of fact of the trial court, and presumes that any facts, which were not specifically
    found in the judgment, were found by the trial court to be in accordance with the Court’s Judgment.
    The Court of Appeals can assume that the trial court elected to completely disregard or disbelieve a
    witness’ testimony.  Because of these factors, success as an appellant depends largely upon
    selecting experienced counsel. 
            Larry Gillespie worked in the Missouri Court of Appeals as a clerk for the Honorable Robert
    Christ, and has since presented well over one hundred cases to the Appellate Courts.   Gillespie,
    and the firm have perfected appeals in the appellate circuits of Missouri, the Missouri Supreme Court,
    and in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Civil Litigation

  • Breach of Contract
  • Construction
  • Inverse Condemnation
  • Landlord/Tenant
  • Mechanic’s Lien
  • Misrepresentation/Fraud
  • Nuisance
  • Partition
  • Priority of Lien
  • Quiet Title
  • Tax Sale
  • Title
  • Trespass
  • Zoning

Presenting cases to a jury or judge requires presence, experience, knowledge, insight and quick thinking. The choice of counsel is a critical element affecting the outcome of litigation. It is essential to select counsel that is practical, experienced, and with whom the client can communicate. A party to litigation should select counsel with whom they identify and whom they trust, because that attorney will speak for and represent the client before the Judge and jury, and the client will be working closely with that attorney through a difficult time in their lives.

The disputes GHC handles include corporate, commercial and business litigation, as well as any number of equitable or individual claims, including personal injury. Our attorneys have obtained favorable resolutions in numerous contract disputes, including the enforcement of non- competition and non-solicitation agreements. We have represented clients in numerous real estate and commercial disputes involving claims for tortious conduct, including unfair competition, tortious interference and fraud. GHC has secured numerous judgments for extraordinary remedies, including temporary restraining orders, injunctions, attachment, partition, mechanics liens, declaratory judgment and interpleader cases.

We practice in most Metropolitan Saint Louis area courts, including the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the Circuit Court for the City of Saint Louis, and the Circuit Courts for the Counties of Saint Louis, Jefferson, Franklin, Saint Charles, Monroe, and Warren. We also practice in the Missouri Supreme Court, all of the appellate courts for the state of Missouri and the Eighth Circuit, Federal Court of Appeals.

Anyone who has been served with a summons should contact a lawyer immediately. Most summons require an answer either in person or in writing on a relatively short time frame. Failure to respond will result in a default judgment being entered against the defendant. If you receive a summons, contact a lawyer immediately.

Corporate

  • Formation
  • Asset Purchase/Sale
  • Confidentiality Agreements
  • Stock Purchase/Sale
  • Non-Compete Agreements
  • Limited Liability Companies

Corporate Litigation

  • Breach of Contract
  • Buy/Sell Disclosures
  • Collections
  • Non-Compete Agreements/Trade Secrets
  • Stock Purchase Agreements
  • Receivership/Accounting
  • Sale of Assets or Stock
Any number of disputes can arise in a business organization. Business organizations, include, corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships and limited partnerships. Each business form will have its own nuances, but frequently the issues are similar. Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin, LLC has escorted clients through all types of corporate disputes in State and Federal Courts.
Recently, in part due to the economy, disputes have arisen between companies and shareholders relating to Stock Purchase Agreements. The issue of whether or not shareholders may be entitled to be bought out of their shares from closely held companies can be complex, especially where the economy or other circumstances have reduced the available assets of the company to purchase stock. The bylaws of many closely held corporations give shareholders limited rights to obtain redemption of their stock. Various agreements between the company and the shareholder may provide rights for redemption or other rights to the shareholder. Generally closely held corporations, small corporations with a limited number of shareholders, frequently have limitations on the market ability of the shares such that a sale of shares must be approved by the remaining shareholders, or first be offered to the remaining shareholders. Frequently, there is no market for the shares outside of the corporation. A minority shareholder may lack sufficient votes to approve redemption. However, the controlling shareholders may not mismanage the company to the detriment of the minority shareholders. In the last three years, Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin has represented a number of clients involving enforcement of Stock Purchase Agreements or the bylaws of the corporation, as they relate to the redemption of stock.
Another frequent source of disputes, is the sale of corporate assets or a sale of all or substantially all of the corporate stock. After the sale, these cases frequently involve disputes over the financial statements of the company provided prior to the sale, or disputes involving the projected sales of the company after the transaction. Frequently, the purchase agreement provides for earn-out payments to be paid in subsequent years depending upon the corporation meeting certain revenue goals, or consultation fees for key employees. The calculation of these revenue goals can be complicated and highly disputed, even though they are controlled by the terms of the agreement. The purchaser may allege fraud in the inducement of the sale of the corporation, based upon misrepresentations in the financial statements that were presented prior to the sale and relied upon by the purchaser. Surprisingly, these types of disputes can appear equally often in both large and small transactions.
When majority shareholders take advantage of their controlling interest to the detriment of minority shares, derivative claims may be a shareholder’s only remedy to avoid their shares being rendered worthless. Derivative claims are a unique remedy, similar to a class action, limited to the shareholders of the corporation. In these and corporate dissolution cases the appointment of a receiver is one remedy, whereby the court can maintain the status quo of the company while litigation is pending.
Often times in such disputes, one party or the other is subject to a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement which may further complicate the issues in the case. Non-compete agreements generally prohibit a former owner, employee or officer of a corporation from competing within the same industry within a certain area and for a certain period of time. Non-solicitation agreements generally prohibit former employees, owners and officers of a company from soliciting customers and employees and sometimes vendors of the company for a period of time. Because such agreements can restrict a persons ability to earn a living within their industry, and because the agreements are intended to protect the company’s relationship with their customers these agreements can be highly contested. Non-compete and non-solicitation litigation is frequently very fact specific. However, it is important to start with the knowledge that Missouri does recognize non-compete agreements and non-solicitation agreements, assuming that they are reasonable.
Corporate dissolutions frequently arise where the Board of Directors is dead-locked, because no party holds a majority, and therefore the board cannot function. Obviously this is common in closed corporations or partnerships where two owners each own 50% of the ownership interests. Once the shareholders and board become dead-locked, the only way the corporation can function is frequently by the appointment of a receiver, and subsequently an accounting and a corporate dissolution.
Claims against corporations may involve claims of mismanagement, fraud or other tortious conduct. Under certain circumstances, where officers of a corporation participate in fraud or tortious conduct, liability can be extended to the acting officers. Remedies available to shareholders may include seeking an accounting of transactions of the corporation to determine whether or not there was fraud or mismanagement.
Sometimes a corporation may wish to seek a statutory dissolution, when the company is winding down. A statutory dissolution involves service of notice to known claimants and publication of notice that the corporation is ceasing operations. Once the notice is published, any party having claims against the corporation must come forward and make demand of their claims. If they fail to do so within 180 days for known claims and 2 years for unknown claims, their claims will be barred. 351.478 and 351.482 R.S.Mo.
Corporate litigation can take many forms, be complex and involve accounting issues. However, qualified legal counsel can streamline the process by using experience and seeking the proper remedy. Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin has successfully represnetd clients in corporate disputes in St. Louis County and City, Franklin, and St. Charles Counties, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Criminal Litigation

  • DWI
  • Felony
  • Misdemeanor
  • Juvenile
  • White Collar

At Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin our attorneys have over fifty years of combined experience representing clients charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses. Our attorneys include a municipal judge, a former assistant United States Attorney, and a former public defender, forming a wellspring of expertise and experience to apply to every case. The firm’s unique experience includes the defense felony offenses, including white collar, violent and personal offenses, as well as misdemeanor offenses, including possession and DWI. Anyone who is sought for questioning by the police should first seek competent counsel.

Domestic

  • Divorce
  • Modification
  • Appeals
  • Child Custody
  • Maintenance/Support
  • Contempt of Court
  • Enforcement
  • Relocation

We provide effective representation in all areas of family law, including divorce, legal separation, child custody, child support, child support enforcement, modifications, relocations, premarital and post-marital agreements, paternity, property division, business valuation, grandparent visitation, adoption, child abuse, adult abuse, domestic violence, contempt, enforcement, family access motions, mediation and domestic appeals. Larry Gillespie has succeeded in perfecting numerous appeals in all of the appellate districts of Missouri and the Supreme Court of Missouri.

Most individuals entering domestic litigation are overwhelmed by emotions, fear of the unknown and the daunting process ahead of them. Admittedly, the process is trying, complicated, and sometimes contentious. The choice of a lawyer, who is qualified, practical and compassionate, can minimize the anxiety of the domestic litigation. Property division within the divorce process can be a complex matter, especially where couples have acquired a substantial amount of assets, or assets of significant worth. The court has jurisdiction over the division of property and debt in a proceeding for divorce. (§452.330 R.S.Mo.) A primary consideration is whether property is marital or separate. Generally, separate property is that which is acquired and paid for before the marriage, or inherited. Occasionally, property may be mixed marital and non marital, such that a party will need to demonstrate the source of funds for the acquisition of the property. Income from separate property can be a complicated issue.

The factors the court evaluates in dividing marital property include:

  1. The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of any children;
  2. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  3. The value of the nonmarital property set apart to each spouse;
  4. The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  5. Custodial arrangements for minor children. (§452.330 R.S.Mo.)

It is important to carefully evaluate the various implications of the division of property in order to protect your interests. Obtaining the property to which you are entitled requires selection of competent counsel.

The custody of children is frequently the most sensitive, contentious issue in the divorce process. In Missouri, both legal and physical custody shall be determined. (§452.375 R.S.Mo.) Legal custody addresses decision-making for the child’s health, education and welfare, while Physical custody addresses the periods of time each parent is responsible for the care and supervision of the child. The court considers all relevant factors when making its custody determination, including:

  1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  2. The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  5. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
  6. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved. If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
  7. The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child;
  8. The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian. (§452.375 R.S.Mo.)

Custody disputes are complicated and contentious. Because parents are emotional and concerned, when facing custody litigation, they are vulnerable to promises of success. Potential litigants should interview more than one lawyer, and select an attorney who is practical and with whom they are comfortable. Parents should beware of promises of success that seem too good to be true, as well as excessive retainer demands. In Missouri, both parents owe a duty of support to their children. (§452.340 R.S.Mo.) Where a child support determination is to be made, the court may order either or both parents to pay a reasonable amount for the support the child. The support calculation is based on a numeric formula, which includes several factors; including, but not limited to, the financial resources of the parents.

In Missouri judgments of custody, maintenance or support can be modified “upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable.” (§452.370 R.S.Mo.) Paternity actions arise when a person seeks to petition the court to determine the existence of a father-child relationship. (§210.826 R.S.Mo.) Paternity actions are useful in establishing child support orders and custody agreements where the biological parents to a child are not legally married. Many fathers are the petitioner initiating a paternity action in order to establish a consistent and substantial role in their children’s lives.

Adoption is perhaps the most rewarding facet of family law. Adoption is a surprisingly intricate process. In order to provide significant due process rights to the natural parent or parents of a child, the court requires scrupulous documentation regarding the adoptive parents and the natural parents. (§453.010 et seq. R.S.Mo.) The court will appoint an attorney for the child, known as a Guardian Ad Litem. Our attorneys are experienced in navigating the procedural hurdles to adoption, whether a step-parent adoption, or two-parent adoption.

Sometimes after trial one party is dissatisfied with the outcome of a domestic proceeding and seeks to appeal the judgment therein. Appeals from a trial court judgment are based solely upon the record introduced at the trial court. In order to be successful, an appellant must demonstrate that the trial judge made an error in the judgment or the trial. The court of appeals grants substantial deference to the trial judge. Lawrence Gillespie has been successful in representing clients in numerous domestic appeals involving a variety of issues. Mr. Gillespie has handled some of the most significant appellate domestic decisions in the last ten years.

Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge to provide superior, practical and cost effective domestic representation. We understand the complex nature of divorce and all domestic matters. We pay careful attention to the individual needs of our clients, and guide them through each step of the process. Clients seeking experienced and effective attorneys to navigate the waters of family disputes select Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin, L.L.C.

Estate Planning

  • Living Will/Health Care Directives
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Trusts
  • Wills

People of all ages and wealth levels may benefit from estate planning. Planning involves anticipating as many possible scenarios for the future as possible. Even college age children may need minor estate planning documents such as a medical durable power of attorney, allowing their parents access to medical records, and appointing someone to make medical decisions, if the patient is not able to do so. Medical Durable Powers of Attorney are valuable for all ages, because they allow a person to state their intentions and desires in advance, if they should suffer some catastrophic injury or disease, but they also appoint some one to make medical decisions in the event the patient is not able to.

Durable Powers of Attorney for financial affairs are also useful tools, allowing people to appoint a representative who can sign legal documents or perform legal acts for them in the event they are out of town, out of the country or otherwise indisposed. Of course, Durable Powers of Attorney for financial affairs are also helpful if an individual becomes disabled or incapacitated for some reason. Powers of Attorney can either immediately grant authority to the attorney-in-fact, or the authority of the designated person can be “springing”, meaning that the attorney-in-fact does not have any authority until a stated event occurs. Powers of Attorney are extremely important for the elderly, such that, if a parent should suffer a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, require surgery or extended hospital stay, a child can manage their financial affairs, until they recover or until their death. Powers of Attorney by law expire upon the grantor’s death.

It is imperative for elderly people to have a Power of Attorney, assuming they have someone trustworthy to rely upon, because of their susceptibility to strokes, dementia and other medical problems. Often people wait until after a parent’s health diminishes in order to explore estate planning, but if the person has had a stroke or has Alzheimer’s disease, they may become incompetent to execute an estate plan or power of attorney.

People with children will generally want to have a Will, because aside from the obvious reasons, a Will allows parents to state their preference for the children’s guardian in the event of the parent’s death. Wills can also be instrumental in simplifying the probate process for ones heirs, even if the testator plans for his property to be left to his legal heirs. Wills should be drafted by an attorney, despite the forms available online, because each state has different laws, and even the proper execution of a will is highly technical in order to comply with the requirements of a self-proving will in the Probate Court.

In Missouri, even if a decedent has a Will, contrary to common opinion, generally their estate will pass through the probate court. While the probate court does involve some costs and expenses of publication, and usually attorney fees to administer the estate, perhaps the biggest difficulty or inconvenience of probate court is that the assets cannot be distributed to heirs in less than seven (7) months from the date of first publication of the issuance of letters testamentary.

Juvenile

  • Adoption
  • Delinquency
  • Guardianship

The juvenile court is involved in a number of issues, which as the name implies, involve children. The Juvenile court’s jurisdiction includes adoptions, either by step-parents or new parents. At the same time, the Juvenile court handles all allegations of child abuse, by neglect, physical or sexual contact. Any criminal offenses committed by minors also originate in the Juvenile Court. The attorneys of Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin LLC are experienced in navigating the difficult and often confusing procedures of the Juvenile Court. These matters frequently involve state or law enforcement agencies, such as Division of Family Services, Counselors, Deputy Juvenile Officers, and court staff. Both a parent’s and a child’s rights and interests are at stake in any matter before the Juvenile court, and all such parties should be represented by counsel.

A minor child has a right to be represented by counsel, and any questioning by law enforcement without the presence of a parent or a Deputy Juvenile Officer is prohibited by state law.

Negligence

  • Auto Accident
  • Personal Injury
  • Products
  • Liability
  • Professional Liability

Probate

  • Conservatorships
  • Guardianships
  • Decedent
  • Estates

Residential and Commercial Real Estate

Today’s real estate environment presents challenges requiring the assistance of professionals experienced in dealing with the multitude of issues that can arise. The attorneys at Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin L.L.C. have the necessary knowledge and experience to address these issues, having represented homeowners, developers, landlords, tenants, real estate agents, contractors and title companies, as well as homeowners and condominium associations.

Whether our client is involved in the real estate business on a daily basis or is an individual who may buy or sell a piece of property once in his/her lifetime, we can assist with most real estate transactions.

  • Purchase and Sale of Residential Property
  • Leasing – Landlord/Tenant Representation
  • Property Management Agreements
  • Boundary Disputes
  • Title Issues
  • Easements
  • Construction Issues
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Real Estate Closings

Gillespie, Hetlage & Coughlin L.L.C. prides itself in its focused approach to resolving problems. The key is to recognize the client’s needs and goals, and to accomplish favorable results as effectively and efficiently as possible.