Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The circuit court erroneously declared the law when it concluded that an employee’s violation of employer’s rules regarding vehicle operation were sufficient to preclude coverage under the omnibus clause of the employer’s insurance policy. James Campbell, an employee of BNSF Railway Company, rear-ended Ricky Lee Griffitts while driving a BNSF company vehicle. Campbell was intoxicated at the time of the collision. Numerous lawsuits ensued. This appeal was from an equitable garnishment action that Griffitts filed against BNSF and its insurer, Old Republic (collectively, Respondents), to collect on an unsatisfied judgment entered against Campbell in an earlier action. In this action, Griffitts claimed that Campbell was a permissive user under the omnibus clause of the insurance policy Old Republic issued to BNSF. The circuit court concluded that Campbell did not have permission to use the company vehicle at the time of the accident due to his violation of BNSF’s policy on the use of alcohol and drugs, and therefore, Campbell was not a permissive user under the omnibus clause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Campbell had permission to use the company vehicle at the time of the accident and that it did not matter, for purposes of insurance coverage, that Campbell was drunk. View "Griffitts v. Old Republic Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court entering judgment in favor of Sherry Spence on her wrongful death cause of action for the death of her husband. Spence sued BNSF Railway Company for the wrongful death of the decedent, who was killed after a BNSF train struck his pickup truck at a railroad crossing. Spence alleged BNSF was negligent for failing to trim the vegetation around the railroad crossing and asserted a claim of respondeat superior liability against BNSF, alleging that its train crew members were negligent for failing to stop or slow the train. A jury found in favor of Spence, assessing ninety-five percent of the fault to BNSF for the conduct of its train crew and for its failure to maintain the railroad crossing, and five percent of the fault to the decedent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) overruling BNSF’s motion for a new trial based upon a juror’s intentional nondisclosures; (2) submitting the verdict directors in two jury instructions and the corresponding verdict form; and (3) overruling BNSF’s motion for a new trial on the grounds that an instruction regarding the duties owed by BNSF was improperly submitted. View "Spence v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (Commission) declining to approve the agreement entered into Employer and Employee that Employer would make a lump sum payment to fully satisfy Employee’s award of permanent total disability benefits. Employee received a work-related injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim against Employer. A final award granted Employee permanent total disability benefits to be paid weekly. The parties later agreed that Employee would make a lump sum benefit to fully satisfy the award. The Commission declined to approve the agreement, concluding that the Commission had no authority to approve the agreement either as a settlement under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.390 or as an application for a “commutation” under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.530. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not have the authority to consider or approve the agreement under section 287.390; and (2) the Commission properly refused to approve a commutation pursuant to the agreement. View "Dickemann v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission’s determination that because Robert Casey’s exposure to asbestos occurred while he was employed by Employer, its insurer (Insurer), was liable to Dolores Murphy, Casey’s widow, for benefits under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.200.4. Casey died from mesothelioma caused by repeated exposure to asbestos in the workplace. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found Employer liable and awarded section 287.200.4’s enhanced mesothelioma benefits to Murphy and Casey’s eight children. The Commission largely affirmed, limiting recovery to Murphy and determining Murphy to be the sole proper claimant because the amended claim did not identify Casey’s child as dependents or claimants. The Supreme Court modified the Commission’s decision to include Casey’s children in the final award and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) Insurer was liable for the enhanced mesothelioma benefits; (2) section 287.022 is constitutional as applied; and (3) because section 287.200.4 does not limit recovery to dependent children and because the children were properly listed on the amended claim, they should have been included in the final award. View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Casey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ of prohibition sought by Relators prohibiting Respondent, the Honorable James F. Kanatzar, from taking any action other than granting their motion to dismiss the underlying wrongful death suit as barred by the statute of limitations. After Plaintiffs filed wrongful death claims against Relators, Relators filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the claims were time-barred under the three-year statute of limitations in Mo. Rev. Stat. 537.100 and the savages provision was not applicable. The circuit court overruled the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Relators filed a petition for writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that because Plaintiffs’ third action was not filed within one year of the nonsuit of their first action - the only action filed within the limitations period - the savings provision did not apply and the third suit was time-barred. View "State ex rel. Goldsworthy v. Honorable James F. Kanatzar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent preliminary writs of prohibition sought by Relators to prevent the circuit court from taking any action other than vacating its orders overruling their respective motions to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiff’s Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) claims against them for discrimination and retaliation were time barred. After Relators each filed a motion to dismiss as time barred Alicia Mulvey’s MHRA claims for discrimination and retaliation, Mulvey filed a motion for leave to amend her petition to include common law claims of negligence and wrongful discharge. The circuit court overruled Relators’ motions to dismiss and sustained Mulvey’s motion for leave to amend. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court exceeded its authority when it overruled Relators’ motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim and abused its discretion when it sustained Mulvey’s motion for leave to amend her petition because Mulvey failed to file her MHRA claim within the ninety-day statutory period and her common law claims of negligence and wrongful discharge were fully encompassed and comprehended by the MHRA. View "State ex rel. Church & Dwight Co. v. Honorable William B. Collins" on Justia Law

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Because Plaintiffs in these two personal injury suits failed to allege a breach of a duty unrelated to employment or a breach of workplace safety that was so unforeseeable to the employer as to take it outside the employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff’s co-employees (Defendants). Plaintiffs in both cases were injured on the job. Plaintiffs sued Defendants for common law negligence, arguing that Defendants breached a duty separate and distinct from their employers’ duty to provide a safe workplace. In each case, the trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted under Parr v. Breeden, 489 S.W.3d 774, 778 (Mo. banc 2016) and Peters v. Wady Industries, Inc., 489 S.W.3d 784, 789-90 (Mo. banc 2016). View "Conner v. Ogletree" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this personal injury suit, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant under Parr v. Breeden, 489 S.W.3d 774, 778 (Mo. banc 2016) and Peters v. Wady Industries, Inc., 489 S.W.3d 784, 789-90 (Mo. banc 2016). Matthew Fogerty brought this action against Larry Meyer, his co-employee, seeking damages for injuries he sustained while the parties were working together. After the accident, Fogerty filed and settled a workers’ compensation claim for his injuries. Fogerty then filed this personal injury lawsuit against Meyer. Meyer filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Fogerty failed to show that Meyer breached a duty separate and distinct from the employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a safe workplace. The circuit court agreed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Meyer’s negligence was a breach of the employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a safe workplace, not a breach of a duty “separate and distinct” from the employer’s duty. View "Fogerty v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that Plaintiff’s wrongful death action was barred by the exclusivity provision in Missouri’s workers’ compensation statutes, Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.120. Edward McComb died while driving a vehicle for his employer. Plaintiff, McComb's widow, brought this suit against McComb’s supervisory co-employees (collectively, Defendants). The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that whether McComb’s death was attributable to his employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a safe workplace was a question of fact for a jury to decide, thus precluding summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendants owed McComb a duty separate and distinct from his employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a safe workplace, and therefore, summary judgment was properly granted under Parr v. Breeden, 489 S.W.3d 774, 778 (Mo. banc 2016) and Peters v. Wady Industries, Inc., 489 S.W.3d 784, 789-90 (Mo. banc 2016). View "McComb v. Norfus" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Plaintiff on her claim of negligence alleging that Defendant, her employer, breached its duty to protect her from the criminal act of a third person on its premises. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in submitting a verdict director to the jury that was not supported by substantial evidence and erred in allowing Plaintiff to make arguments to the jury that misstated the law as instructed in the verdict director. The Supreme Court held (1) the allegation of error made in Defendant’s first point on appeal was not properly preserved; and (2) Defendant’s remaining arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "Wieland v. Owner-Operator Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury