Missouri law is clear that to be considered a third-party beneficiary under a contract, the contract must clearly express an intent to benefit that party or an identifiable class to which the party belongs. Milligan v. Chesterfield Vill. GP, LLC, 239 S.W.3d 613, 622 (Mo. App. S.D. 2007). Absent express declaration of such intent, it is strongly presumed that the third party is not a beneficiary and that the parties contracted only to benefit themselves. Id.
There are three types of third-party beneficiaries: donee, creditor and incidental. Kansas City Hispanic Ass’n Contractors Enter., Inc. v. City of Kansas City, 279 S.W.3d 551, 555 (Mo. App. W.D. 2009). A donee third-party beneficiary exists when “the purpose of the promisee in obtaining the promise of all or part of the performance thereof is to make a gift to the beneficiary or to confer upon him a right against the promisor to some performance neither due nor supposed nor asserted to be due from the promisee to the beneficiary.” Id. A creditor beneficiary is “one upon whom the promisee intends to confer the benefit of the performance of the promisee’s contract with the promisor and thereby discharge an obligation or duty the promisee owes the beneficiary.” Id. In contrast, an incidental beneficiary is one who will benefit from the performance of a promise but who is neither a promisee nor an intended beneficiary. Id.
The classification of third-party beneficiaries can have important consequences. For instance, donee and creditor beneficiaries may maintain actions and recover under a contract, while incidental beneficiaries may not. Id. Accordingly, it is important to understand the differences between the three classifications.