2021 Trials and Verdicts

January 7, 2021

Summary Judgment Entered in Premises Liability Case

Kristie Crawford obtained summary judgment for a major retail client in an alleged trip and fall case. The plaintiff sustained significant head injuries requiring two surgeries after allegedly tripping and falling on the lip of a sidewalk. The Missouri U.S. District Court found the plaintiff failed to provide evidence the lip created an unreasonably dangerous condition.

Successful Trial Result in High-Speed Crash Case

Jackie Kinder and Brendon Sanders came in with a huge jury verdict for their defendant client who was driving a vehicle at high speeds jumping hills and crashed his car with his girlfriend as a passenger, killing his girlfriend. The mother of the girl filed a wrongful death action against the client. After four days of trial, the jury came back with only $40,000 and held the passenger girlfriend 30% at fault for participating in the event with the defendant driver for a net verdict of only $28,000. The plaintiff had asked the jury for $7 million.

Summary Judgment Entered in Trip and Fall Case

Steve Schwartz and Ed Zeidler prevailed on a Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of a major restaurant chain in a trip and fall case in the City of St. Louis. The plaintiff tripped and fell while walking on an uneven city sidewalk just outside the restaurant. The plaintiff argued that the restaurant, knowing that many of its customers traversed this sidewalk to move between the restaurant and a nearby parking lot, owed a duty to provide adequate lighting for the sidewalk. In granting summary judgment, the Court affirmed that a municipality’s duty to maintain its sidewalks includes a duty to adequately light those sidewalks. That the restaurant’s customers frequently used the sidewalk did not constitute a “special use” of the sidewalk by the restaurant and did not create a duty owed by the restaurant to maintain or light the sidewalk.

Summary Judgment Win in Wrongful Death Inmate Case

Ed Zeidler prevailed on a Motion for Summary Judgment in a wrongful death case filed against multiple law enforcement entities. The decedent was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy in New Madrid County on an outstanding warrant for domestic assault, and he was taken to the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Department for booking. Because New Madrid County does not have a jail, another deputy transported the decedent to the Pemiscot County jail. While in route, the decedent became belligerent. The transporting deputy requested assistance, and an officer from a nearby municipality responded, met the deputy on the highway, helped restrain the decedent, including the use of a taser, and then rode with the deputy to the Pemiscot County jail. Pemiscot County jailers took then took custody of the decedent and placed him in a restraint chair. Despite the decedent’s ongoing lack of cooperation, he was booked, showered and then placed in a recreation room for observation on video camera. After approximately 80 minutes, one of the jailers checked on the decedent and found him to be non-responsive. EMS were called, and the decedent was pronounced dead. The cause of death was determined to be acute methamphetamine intoxication.

Plaintiffs were the decedent’s surviving spouse and children. Against Mr. Zeidler’s clients (the municipal officer who assisted in transporting the decedent, that officer’s police chief, and the municipality that employed the officer and the police chief), plaintiffs alleged violations of 42 USC 1983 (based on alleged violation of the decedent’s 14th Amendment right to medical care as a pretrial detainee) and they also stated a claim under the Missouri Wrongful Death Statute (based on the theory that the defendants failed to adequately monitor the decedent, failed to obtain medical care for him when it was clear that such care was required, and improperly used a taser on him when it was clear that he was in a state of delirium and in need of medical assistance). Mr. Zeidler filed a Motion to Dismiss the 1983 claims, arguing that, under Missouri’s survival statutes, 1983 claims do not survive death and cannot be asserted by a decedent’s surviving family members. As such, plaintiffs had no standing to pursue a 1983 claim following the decedent’s death. The court agreed, finding plaintiffs’ 1983 claims impermissible and dismissing those claims. With respect to the wrongful death claim, once plaintiffs’ expert disclosure deadline passed, Mr. Zeidler filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that plaintiffs, after an adequate time for discovery, had failed to present evidence to support the position that the decedent would have survived but for the alleged negligent acts of the defendants. Plaintiffs identified no medical experts other than the medical examiner, and plaintiff failed to timely disclose any causation opinions from the medical examiner. The court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the jury should be allowed to deduce, in the absence of expert testimony, that the actions of the defendants caused the decedent’s death. Rather, the decedent’s death was a sophisticated injury that required expert testimony to establish a causal link between the alleged negligence and the decedent’s death.

Success in Clear Fault Auto Case

Jeff Lester obtained a favorable verdict for his client-defendant in a clear fault, construction zone auto accident. The plaintiff claimed permanent and progressive neck injuries, including a herniated disc, and demanded compensation for a future surgery. After a three-day jury trial, a Camden County jury returned a verdict for only $1,250.

Plaintiff Ordered to Pay Employer in Rare Workers’ Compensation Ruling

Robert Amsler achieved a successful result for his client in a case in which the Labor & Industrial Relations Commission reversed an award by an administrative law judge and determined that the nursing home employee had to pay temporary total disability benefits after the nursing home fired an employee for post-injury misconduct. The employee, a nurse, injured herself at work and fractured her foot. After filing a workers’ compensation claim, she violated numerous state laws by knowingly failing to secure medication on two occasions and violated policy by dispensing the wrong medications to residents. After the temporary hearing, the judge determined the willful decision of the employee to leave medication unsecured and her failure to abide by a policy that would have prevented the dispensing of the wrong medication to patients did not constitute misconduct. The nursing home had no right to appeal until after a hearing of the entire case. They then appealed to the Labor & Industrial Relations Commission. The commission determined the employee did engage in post-injury misconduct and and deducted the permanent partial disability benefits awarded ($24,353.33) from the temporary total disability amount, ($36,959.18).  The commission then ordered the claimant to pay the employer $12,605.85. The matter is subject to appeal for 30 days.