Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Missouri Supreme Court
Glossip v. Mo. Dep’t of Transp. & Highway Patrol Employees’ Ret. Sys.
Appellant, the same-sex partner of a highway patrolman who was killed in the line of duty, applied for survivor benefits under Mo. Rev. Stat. 104.140.3, which provides survivor benefits to the surviving spouse of a highway patrol employee who is killed in the line of duty. The Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees' Retirement System denied Appellant's application. Appellant argued before the circuit court that the survivor benefits statute violated his equal protection rights by excluding him from survivor benefits because of his sexual orientation and violated the constitutional proscription against special laws. The circuit court affirmed the administrative decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant was not eligible for survivor benefits because he was not married to the patrolman; and (2) the survivor benefits statute is constitutional and is not a special law. View "Glossip v. Mo. Dep't of Transp. & Highway Patrol Employees' Ret. Sys." on Justia Law
Farrow v. St. Francis Med. Ctr.
Plaintiff, who was formerly employed by Hospital, brought an eight-count petition against Hospital and Doctor (collectively, Defendants) alleging violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (the MHRA) and other common law claims related to the termination of her employment. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the circuit court's judgment with respect to Plaintiff's MHRA claims and wrongful discharge claim, holding (i) the circuit court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's MHRA claims on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to satisfy the statutory prerequisites for filing a lawsuit under the MHRA, and (ii) because Plaintiff's amended petition sufficiently invoked the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine, the circuit court erred in sustaining summary judgment in Hospital's favor on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim; and (2) affirmed the circuit court's judgment as to all remaining counts. Remanded. View "Farrow v. St. Francis Med. Ctr. " on Justia Law
Bair v. Faust
Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant for the injuries she sustained in an automobile accident. Plaintiff was not present during voir dire or at the beginning of the second morning of trial before opening statements commenced. Upon the motion of Defendant, the trial court excluded Plaintiff from the trial and allowed Defendant to argue an adverse inference. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the trial court erred in both excluding Plaintiff from trial and then allowing Defendant's attorney to make an adverse inference about Plaintiff's absence from the courtroom, rulings that, taken together, resulted in manifest injustice to Plaintiff. View "Bair v. Faust" on Justia Law
Johnson v. JF Enters., LLC
In 2007, Anita Johnson purchased a vehicle from a dealership operated by JF Enterprises. Johnson signed numerous documents at a single sitting, including a retail installment contract and a one-page arbitration agreement. In 2010, Johnson sued the dealership, its president (Franklin), and the vehicle manufacturer (American Suzuki), claiming negligent misrepresentation. Franklin and JF Enterprises moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement. The trial court overruled the motion, finding that the installment contract did not refer to or incorporate the arbitration agreement and contained a merger clause stating that it contained the parties' entire agreement as to financing. The Supreme Court reversed after noting that contemporaneously signed documents will be construed together and harmonized if possible, holding that because the separate arbitration agreement was a dispute resolution agreement, not an additional financing document, it could be harmonized with the installment contract and was not voided by operation of the merger clause. View "Johnson v. JF Enters., LLC" on Justia Law
Ward v. W. County Motor Co., Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit against West County Motor Company for violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) and for conversion. Each plaintiff paid a deposit to West County to secure the purchase of a vehicle and signed a vehicle buyer's order providing that "all deposits are non refundable." However, all plaintiffs but one alleged that West County told them their deposits were refundable if the purchase was not completed. When Plaintiffs decided not to purchase their vehicles, West County told them their deposits would not be refunded. The trial court dismissed the MMPA claims for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court's dismissal of that portion of Plaintiffs' claims alleging violations of the MMPA based on violations of Mo. Rev. Stat. 364.070.4; and (2) reversed the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims alleging violations of the MMPA based on conversion, lack of good faith, and an illegal liquidated damages clause, as Plaintiffs' allegations of conversion, unlawful liquidated damages, and lack of good faith were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Ward v. W. County Motor Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Doe v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc.
After John Doe's HIV test results were sent by Quest to the church where Doe worked as personal assistant to the pastor, Doe filed suit against Quest Diagnostics Clinic Laboratories (Quest Laboratories) and its parent, Quest Diagnostics, alleging wrongful disclosure of HIV test results and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court (1) entered a directed verdict in favor of Quest Diagnostics on the ground it was a separate corporation from Quest Laboratories and did not exercise such control over the latter that the corporate veil should be pierced; and (2) found in favor of Quest Laboratories on both counts. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of Quest Laboratories, holding that the trial court (1) committed prejudicial error in submitting an affirmative defense instruction requiring the jury to find for Quest Laboratories if it found Doe gave it "written authorization" to disclose his HIV test results, as the instruction was not supported by the evidence; and (2) erred in submitting Doe's claim of breach of fiduciary duty, as an adequate remedy at law already existed under Missouri statute. Remanded. View "Doe v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law
Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am. v. Manitowoc Co., Inc.
A construction crane owned and operated by a construction company (Jacobsmeyer) fell on a building. Jacobsmeyer's insurer (Travelers) reached a settlement agreement with the designer and manufacturer of the crane (Grove) wherein Grove agreed to pay Jacobsmeyer and Travelers (hereinafter referred to collectively as Jacobsmeyer) for a majority of their remaining losses associated with the accident. Jacobsmeyer subsequently sued Grove and its parent company (hereinafter referred to jointly as Manitowoc) for breach of the settlement agreement. Manitowoc filed third-party petition claims for contribution and/or indemnity against U.S. Steel, alleging that U.S. Steel's predecessor-in-interest provided the faulty steel for the crane. The trial court dismissed Manitowoc's third-party petition with prejudice because Manitowoc failed to satisfy pleading requirements where it did not admit its own liability as a joint tortfeasor in its third-party petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a party seeking contribution or indemnity need not admit its own fault in its third-party petition but rather can deny liability in its answer to the plaintiff's petition and assert in its third-party petition that if it is liable to the plaintiff, then the third-party defendant is liable to it. Remanded. View "Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am. v. Manitowoc Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Manner v. Schiermeier
Appellant suffered extensive injuries while riding a motorcycle that was hit by a vehicle driven by Tortfeasor. Appellanat recovered $100,000 from Tortfeasor's insurance company, which left Appellant with $1.4 million in unpaid damages. Appellant sought additional recovery under the underinsured motorist coverage endorsement of the American Family policy he had purchased for the motorcycle and under the underinsured motorist coverage endorsements of each of the additional American Family insurance policies he had purchased for his two trucks. He also sought recovery as an additional insured on the American Standard policy his father maintained for a motorcycle. Both insurers denied coverage under all of these four policies. Appellant then joined both insurers as additional defendants, claiming he was entitled to $400,000 in underinsured motorist coverage under the four policies. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurers, holding that the policies' owned-vehicle exclusions unambiguously applied to the motorcycle he was riding at the time of the accident. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Tortfeasor's vehicle was an underinsured motor vehicle; (2) the insurers failed to show that the owned-vehicle exclusion applied; and (3) the "other insurance" clause permitted stacking of the underinsured motorist coverage, and offset was not permitted. View "Manner v. Schiermeier" on Justia Law
Watts v. Lester E. Cox Med. Ctrs.
Deborah Watts filed the underlying medical malpractice action alleging that her son was born with disabling brain injuries because Cox Medical Centers and its associated physicians (collectively, Cox) provided negligent health care services. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Watts and awarded $1.45 million in non-economic damages and $3.37 million in future medical damages. The trial court entered a judgment reducing Watts' non-economic damages to $350,000 as required by Mo. Rev. Stat. 538.210. The judgment also established a periodic payment schedule that required immediate payment of half of all net future medical damages with the other half paid in equal annual installments over the next fifty years with an interest rate of 0.26 percent. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgment to the extent it capped non-economic damages pursuant to section 538.210; (2) reversed the judgment to the extent that the trial court entered a periodic payment schedule that did not assure full recovery; and (3) affirmed in all other respects.
Hornbeck v. Spectra Painting, Inc.
This workers' compensation appeal raised the question of whether the fifteen-percent statutory violation penalty under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.120.4 applies to an employee's (claimant) compensation award from the Second Injury Fund (SIF). The ALJ here refused to award the claimant additional benefits, determining that the fifteen-percent penalty under section 287.120.4 was not applicable to enhance the claimant's award. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission found that the fifteen-percent penalty applied to the compensation awards entered by the ALJ. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the section 287.120.4 penalty was inapplicable to the award that claimant received from the SIF.