Articles Posted in Missouri

On this page, we will look at personal injury lawsuits in Missouri. We will provide a very general overview of Missouri tort law, including the types of damages plaintiffs can get in Missouri and how long they can wait before filing a case. We will also look at the average compensation payout in Missouri personal injury cases by examining sample verdicts and reported settlements from recent Missouri cases.

Damages in Missouri Personal Injury Cases

Under Missouri law, a plaintiff who is physically injured due to the negligent actions of the defendant is entitled to “damages” in the form of financial compensation to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in before the injury. Plaintiffs in Missouri personal injury cases are entitled to the following categories of damages:

missouri damage capsAfter a divided Supreme Court of Missouri found the legislature’s $350,000 statutory cap unconstitutional 2 years ago, opponents of letting juries decide just how victims should be compensated said the sky was going to fall in Missouri. Last September, Missouri Supreme Court nixed a statutory limit on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded against defendants.  Tort reformers screamed doctors would flee, malpractice rates would skyrocket, and no one would want to do business in Missouri.  This never happened. But now, some in the Missouri legislature want to pretend that never happened and want to take another shot at caps.

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Last week, the Court of Appeals of Missouri decided a subsequent remedial measures case that I think is of interest to all personal injury lawyers no matter where you practice.

The subsequent remedial measures rule is one of those law school standards that any second-year student can explain in about two minutes. Despite its seeming simplicity, as we see in Emerson v. Garvin Group, the rule is more complicated to apply.

Plaintiff was employed by Raven Industries and was responsible for performing electrical assembly work. Due to the nature of the company’s work, the electrical plant floors had to be stripped, waxed, and buffed to comply with static electricity issues. This work was done by the Garvin Group.

CNN reports that at least 50 hurt and two people were killed in truck accident involving two school buses and a truck on I-44 outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

Tragic bus accidents like this often obscure the fact that school buses are statistically an extremely safe way for children to travel to school, safer than being driven by their parents. This fact does nothing, of course, if your children were involved in this awful crash. But parents also do not want to overreact to high profile stories like this and take their kids off school buses out of safety concerns.

Justice Diaz, while controversial, was a loss for personal injury accident and medical malpractice victims in Mississippi. But Mississippi voters also threw out Chief Justice Jim Smith who upheld verdicts for insurance companies 100% of the time, while ruling to overturn verdicts on behalf of victims 88% of the time. It is is just hard to imagine there is no political bent to this types of rulings – the numbers just jump off the page at you. Challenger Mississippi lawyer Jim Kitchens (a former district attorney). Although he was outspent 2:1, Jim Kitchens’ clobbered Justice Smith 54% – 36%.

A student at Missouri University was awarded $450,000, a jury in Missouri found this week. The student was struck on a bike while crossing an intersection and then hit a second time and dragged by a Columbia Water and Light truck. Jurors determined that the driver of the first car and the City of Columbia were to blame for 25 percent of the accident.

The verdict was for $1.8 million but under Missouri’s comparative negligence law; the defendants are responsible for their portion of 25% of the fault.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Sides v. St. Anthony’s Medical Center, that plaintiffs in a medical malpractice cases in Missouri may rely on an expert’s opinion that the injury would not have happened in the absence of the defendants’ negligence even without a specific proof of a negligent act. The court adopted the Restatement of Torts rule that if a medical malpractice plaintiff cannot demonstrate which specific act of negligence caused the injury but can demonstrate the potential causes are within the control of the doctor, and the injury would not occur in the absence of negligence, then a medical malpractice plaintiff has jumped over the motion to dismiss/summary judgment hurdle.

The defendant’s medical malpractice lawyer argued that Hasemeier v. Smith, 361 S.W.2d 697 (Mo. banc 1962), an OB/GYN medical malpractice case, was controlling. In that case, the court found that generally res ipsa loquitur is not applicable in medical malpractice cases. The Missouri Supreme Court did not overrule Hasemeier but it may as well have.

The Missouri high court’s ruling, in this case, is consistent with common sense and, as the court noted, the trend in many other states including Kentucky, Nebraska, and New York.

Missouri Lawyers Weekly reports on a recent medical malpractice defense verdict after an 8 day trial in Buchanan County, Missouri in favor of an obstetrician and nurse involving a difficult delivery almost 12 years ago.

Shoulder dystocia can result from a difficult childbirth where the baby’s head is able to clear, but the shoulders – typically one shoulder – will not come out. Not surprisingly, this problem develops with larger babies.

The doctor, in this case, argued that he used fundal pressure and forceps to clear the shoulder. Defendants further claimed there was no shoulder dystocia and any complications the baby had must have occurred in utero (I’m assuming the last part).

According to an article in Missouri Lawyers Weekly, a Jackson County jury recently found for the defendant doctors in a medical malpractice claim for failure to diagnose Plaintiff’s appendicitis, causing the appendix to perforate, leading to peritonitis. Fortunately for the Plaintiff, she had already received a settlement from other doctors who have provided care to her from this incident. At trial, the defendant doctors pointed to the empty chair defendants.

It might have made sense to settle out with the other defendants in this case. We don’t know what the numbers were. But a trial is a search for blame, and it is always easier for a jury to blame someone who is not in the room.

The Kansas City Star reported last month that the average plaintiffs’ verdicts in the Kansas City metro area last year averaged nearly $1.3 million, nearly double the 2006 average of $688,337.

Does this mean that Kansas City juries have become remarkably more liberal? No. Now is the time to dust off all of those “you can prove anything with statistics” clichés.

Average verdicts are always misleading because they involve highs that completely distort the average which is why most statistical analysis of jury verdicts uses the median verdict, not the average jury verdicts.

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