2020 Trials and Verdicts

January 16, 2020

Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Toxic Exposure Case

Mike Ward and Elaine Moss prevailed on an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court in Hegger v. Valley Farms Dairy. The court, in overturning the appellate court ruling, agreed with their argument that now-defunct employers facing claims for workers’ compensation benefits for mesothelioma caused by toxic exposure are not deemed to have elected to accept enhanced liability under section 287.200.4(3)(a) solely by virtue of having workers’ compensation coverage at the time of an employee’s last exposure to asbestos. Hegger v. Valley Farm Dairy Co., 596 S.W.3d 128, 133 (Mo. 2020).

Successful Appeal Involving 537.065 Agreement

Elaine Moss and Kelly Brunie recently prevailed in an appeal before the Court of Appeals for the Western District of Missouri when it upheld a Jackson County trial court’s dismissal of their client in an equitable garnishment action seeking to collect a $3 million judgment following a Section 537.065 agreement. The court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the plaintiff and the alleged insured had failed to plead facts demonstrating that the policy provided coverage for the claim.  David McConnell v. West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., 2020 WL 2529019.

Defense Verdict in Dram Shop Case

Jackie Kinder and Brendon Sanders returned a defense verdict for their clients, the owners of a barbeque restaurant. The plaintiff attended a “jam night” at the restaurant with her boyfriend, who lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree on their way home. The boyfriend was killed in the accident, and plaintiff suffered significant injuries, including bilateral femur fractures and possibly traumatic brain injury, scarring, and other orthopedic injuries. Plaintiff brought a dram shop claim against the restaurant alleging her boyfriend was overserved where his table was served 54 drinks in two hours including 25 shots. Plaintiff alleges the crash was a result of the bar’s over service to him and his intoxication. His blood alcohol level was .188. Plaintiff claimed damages for her pain and suffering, $400,000 in medical bills and further claimed more than $1.1 million in future damages. Plaintiff asked the jury for between $4 million and $6 million. The jury returned a unanimous defense verdict.

Defense Verdict in Slip and Fall Case

John Cunningham secured a defense verdict in a slip and fall case, or a trip and fall, depending on who you believe. The 74-year-old plaintiff fell at a farmers’ market and sustained a fractured eye socket and broken finger. Plaintiff’s medical bills were $40,000. Plaintiff testified that she slipped and fell, hitting her face on the concrete parking block, but the EMT records indicated that plaintiff told them that she “tripped over” the concrete parking block. An independent witness testified she saw the plaintiff trip over the concrete parking block. Plaintiff’s counsel suggested that the jury award medical bills in the amount of $40,000 plus another $40,000 to $80,000 for pain and suffering and disability. The jury returned a defense verdict.

Favorable Result in Admitted Liability Rear-End Auto Case

John Cunningham achieved a successful outcome for his client in an admitted liability rear-end auto accident case. Plaintiff was a passenger in a stopped vehicle. Defendant was unable to stop before the collision on December 21, 2013. Plaintiff estimated the speed of defendant’s car at the time of impact at 40 mph, while defendant estimated her speed at 5 mph. Photos of the vehicles did not show significant damage. Plaintiff had some chiropractic treatment of her neck in the two months leading up to the accident. Plaintiff testified to the accident and how this accident caused significantly different pain than she suffered prior to the accident, including pain in her neck that went down her left arm. She testified to all of her medical treatment and the fact that she has not been able to work since January 2014. She had been earning $56,000 per year as an oncology nurse. On cross-examination, plaintiff claimed that her car was pushed forward a few feet as a result of the impact, contrary to her husband’s testimony. She also claimed that both she and her husband were having pain and reported that to the police officer, but that the police officer would not call an ambulance because they were not ejected from the vehicle and were not bleeding. This was also contrary to her husband’s testimony. Her surgeon testified that he performed four surgeries to plaintiff’s neck and that the surgeries neck were made necessary by the auto accident. Defendant’s medical expert reviewed the medical records and determined that plaintiff sustained no more than a strain and that the surgeries plaintiff underwent were not made necessary by the accident. The defense also called the police officer as a witness. He testified that he investigated the accident and that he wrote a “0” for injuries to each of the parties involved. He did that because each of the parties involved told him that they were not injured. He further testified that, if someone told him of an injury, they would be offered an ambulance. He would never tell someone that an ambulance is unavailable unless you are ejected from the vehicle or bleeding. In closing arguments, Plaintiff’s counsel suggested that the jury consider her medical bills of $520,000, her past and future lost wages of $1.5 million, the significant pain and suffering, and that the jury award plaintiff $6 million. The jury returned a verdict for $3,000.

Defense Verdict in Property Damage Case Alleging Negligence

John Cooney and Patrick Meyer secured a defense verdict for their client, a plumbing contractor, in City of St. Louis Circuit Court. Plaintiff filed suit for negligence against a general contractor and the plumbing contractor as a result of a pipe cap failure and resulting water loss that occurred in 2015. Plaintiff alleged the general contractor hired the plumbing contractor to install a pipe in the ceiling at plaintiff’s apartment complex that had an improper end cap on it. Defendants denied installing the pipe or the cap. After a three-day trial, the jury found in favor of defendants.