Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the labor and industrial relations commission denying Claimants' claim for enhanced mesothelioma benefits under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.200.4(3)(a), holding that because the deceased employee's employer (Employer) did not "elect to accept mesothelioma liability," Claimants were not entitled to the enhanced benefit. The decedent died from mesothelioma cause by toxic exposure to asbestos during his employment with Employer. Prior to his death, Claimants filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits and specifically sought enhanced benefits under subdivision 287.200.4(3)(a). An administrative law judge denied the claim. The commission affirmed the denial of the enhanced benefit, concluding that an employer that ceased operations sixteen years before section 287.200.4(3)(a) took effect could not have elected to accept enhanced liability under that section. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Claimants were not entitled to the enhanced benefit because Employer did not affirmatively elect to accept liability for the enhanced benefit as required under statute. View "Hegger v. Valley Farm Dairy Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the chairman of the Missouri board of probation and parole's motion to dismiss Appellant's petition for declaratory judgment in which he sought a declaration of his right to a parole hearing, holding that the repeal of Mo. Rev. Stat. 195.295.3 did not render Appellant parole eligible. In 2013, a jury found Appellant guilty of drug trafficking in the second degree for acts committed in 2009. Defendant was sentenced under section 195.295.3 as a prior drug offender to a term of imprisonment without eligibility for parole. After the general assembly repealed section 195.295 in January 2017, Appellant filed his petition for declaratory judgment arguing he was eligible for parole because the statute that had rendered him parole ineligible had been repealed. The circuit court dismissed the petition, concluding that the repeal of the statute could not be applied retroactively because it would alter Appellant's sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant's parole ineligibility was part of his sentence, the repeal of section 195.295.3 did not render him eligible for parole. View "Mitchell v. Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining Respondent's motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting Respondent a hearing on his single-count petition for declaratory judgment claiming his parole eligibility should no longer be governed by Mo. Rev. Stat. 195.295 and releasing Respondent on parole, holding that the repeal of section 195.295 had no effect on Respondent's parole eligibility. Respondent was found guilty of trafficking drugs in the second degree for acts committed in May 2006. Respondent was sentenced as a prior drug offender to twenty-five years' imprisonment without eligibility for parole under section 195.295. On January 1, 2017, section 195.295 was repealed. At issue was the legal effect section 195.295's repeal had on Respondent's eligibility for parole. The Supreme Court held that, for the reasons set forth in Mitchell v. Jones, __ S.W.3d __, also decided today, Respondent was not eligible for parole. View "Woods v. Missouri Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the State on the petition for declaratory and injunctive relief filed by Thomas Sager and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (collectively, the Coalition) claiming Senate Bill No. 35 (SB 35), now codified at Mo. Rev. Stat. 34.030, violates the Missouri Constitution, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. In the petition, the Coalition claimed, among other things, that SB 35 violated the single-subject and clear-title requirements in Mo. Const. art. III, 23, that the bill's original purpose changed prior to final passage in violation of the original-purpose requirement of article III, section 21, that SB 35 implicitly amended other laws governing the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and that the full text of those others laws should have been set out in the final bill pursuant to article III, section 28. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the SB 35 did not violate the state constitution in any of the ways argued by the Coalition. View "Missouri Coalition for Environment v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court overruling Dollar Tree's motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings on a former employee's claim of disability discrimination, holding that the order was supported by substantial evidence, was not against the weight of the evidence, and correctly applied the law. After Plaintiff, Dollar Tree's former employee, brought this complaint Dollar Tree filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings under an arbitration agreement in the employment contract. The parties, however, disputed whether there was assent to the arbitration agreement. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration after hearing testimony but did not make any findings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no clear and unmistakable evidence of the existence of assent to a delegation provision, and therefore, the circuit court could not delegate the matter to an arbitrator whose existence depended upon the agreement. View "Theroff v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court declaring the affidavit requirement of Mo. Rev. Stat. 115.427.2(1) and 115.427.3 unconstitutional and enjoining the State from requiring individuals who vote under the non-photo identification option provided in section 115.427.2(1) to execute the affidavit or in enjoining it from disseminating materials indicating photo identification is required to vote, holding that the circuit court did not err. Respondents filed a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Missouri secretary of state, alleging that section 115.427 unconstitutionally burdens individuals' right to vote. The circuit court entered a judgment finding section 115.427 constitutional except for subsections 2(1) and 3, the affidavit requirement, and enjoined the State from requiring individuals who vote under this option to execute the affidavit required under subsections 2(1) and 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the affidavit requirement of sections 115.427.2(1) and 115.427.3 is misleading and contradictory, and therefore, the affidavit requirement is unconstitutional; and (2) the circuit court did not err in enjoining the affidavit requirement. View "Priorities USA v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed these appeals for lack of jurisdiction because neither appeal challenged a "final judgment" as that phrase is used in Mo. Rev. Stat. 512.020(5). The treasurer appealed from a declaratory order. The State appealed from a circuit court order sustaining a motion for summary judgment on the State's cross-claim and also appealed from an injunctive order. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals for lack of jurisdiction, holding (1) the declaratory order was not a judgment, let alone a final judgment; and (2) neither of the two orders that the State appealed from was a final judgment as that phrase is used in section 512.020(5) in that neither disposed of a "judicial unit" of claims. View "Wilson v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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In this suit alleging retaliation pursuant to section 213.070 of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Washington University judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), holding that Plaintiff failed to submit a cognizable claim under the MRHA. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the University claiming that her request for a reasonable accommodation of her herniated discs was a protected activity. A jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor against the University. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in overruling the University's JNOV motion because merely requesting an accommodation is insufficient to support a claim of retaliation under the plain language of the MHRA. View "Lin v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's guilty by mental disease or defect (NGRI) plea that the circuit court accepted after finding Defendant lacked competence to continue with the criminal proceedings, holding that the circuit court exceeded its authority under Mo. Rev. Stat. 552.020.8 and violated Defendant's due process rights. Defendant was charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. After accepting Defendant's NGRI plea the circuit court found Defendant lacked competence to proceed and committed him to the department of mental health. The Defendant sought a writ of habeas corpus arguing that, pursuant to section 552.020.8, upon finding him incompetent, the circuit court was required to suspend the proceedings and commit him to the department of mental health. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that, by accepting Defendant's NGRI plea despite finding him incompetent to proceed, the circuit court exceeded its authority pursuant to section 552.020.8 and violated Defendant's due process rights. View "State ex rel. Kelly v. Inman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of felony possession of a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court did not err in admitting evidence obtained from Defendant's statements and a search of his vehicle after a traffic stop. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in overruling his motion to suppress because the traffic stop was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) crossing the fog line and driving on the shoulder is a traffic violation and creates a lawful justification for a traffic stop; and (2) the stop in this case was justified after Defendant's vehicle crossed the fog line and drove on the shoulder and therefore did not constitute an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law