Laborer Stabbed in St. Louis Rooming House: Attorney Ryan Gavin Wins $1.8 Million Judgment Against Landlord

St. Louis, Missouri – Nine months before the City of St. Louis took legal action against Dara Daugherty and her associates for their “illegal rooming house” scheme, attorney Ryan Gavin had already won a $1.8 million judgment against her. Gavin filed a lawsuit in April 2023 on behalf of James Cole, a tenant who had rented a room from Daugherty in the Benton Park West neighborhood. The lawsuit alleged that Daugherty provided unsafe living conditions and failed to take necessary precautions in screening tenants. Cole was stabbed on the property by another tenant.

During the process of filing the lawsuit, Gavin discovered that Daugherty had purchased foreclosed properties at low prices and operated them as rooming houses without proper insurance or mortgage. This information aligned with what the city later revealed in its own lawsuit. Daugherty’s lack of oversight and negligence transformed her properties into magnets for criminal activity, according to Gavin’s lawsuit.

Gavin questioned why it took the city so long to take action against Daugherty when the police had been well aware of the problems at her properties. In April 2021, Cole was stabbed in one of Daugherty’s rooming houses, and the police report clearly indicated that the property was being operated as such. The house had been the subject of numerous police calls in the year leading up to the stabbing.

Cole suffered severe injuries from the stabbing, including a partial disembowelment, and required surgery and an extended hospital stay. His right hand was permanently affected, making it impossible for him to continue working as a laborer. Gavin mentioned that after the incident, Daugherty assisted Cole in applying for rental assistance through the SAFHR program. However, the program’s funds ended up going directly to Daugherty.

Photos from the police report depicted a chaotic and unsanitary living environment at Daugherty’s property, with trash strewn about and collapsed walls and roof. In September, a judge ruled in favor of Gavin’s lawsuit, awarding him a judgment of over $1.8 million. Daugherty did not mount a defense in the case.

It remains uncertain how much of the judgment Cole will be able to collect. Gavin mentioned that his team is actively investigating Daugherty’s properties to determine if they can identify assets for collection.