Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of assault and armed criminal action following a jury trial, holding that the circuit court prejudicially erred in failing to give the "castle doctrine" self-defense jury instruction that Defendant requested.During trial, Defendant requested a self-defense instruction justifying the use of deadly force by a person lawfully in a vehicle, otherwise known as the "castle doctrine." The circuit court refused the castle doctrine instruction but gave the general self-defense instruction. Defendant was subsequently found guilty on all counts. The Supreme Court vacated the convictions, holding (1) the circuit court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the castle doctrine; and (2) Defendant was prejudiced by the error. View "State v. Straughter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court entering summary judgment in favor of Alexis Still in this dispute over whether there was a settlement agreement between the parties, holding that there was no settlement agreement between the parties.Clifton Jameson and Still were involved in an automobile accident. Jameson sent MetLife, Still's insurer, an offer to settle. MetLife made a counteroffer. Jameson took the counteroffer as a rejection of his offer to settle and sued Still for damages arising from the accident. MetLife then attempted to accept Jameson's original settlement offer. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Still, concluding that MetLife's counteroffer did not terminate the settlement offer and that its subsequent letter of acceptance created a settlement agreement between the two parties. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment on the basis of settlement because no settlement agreement was reached. View "Jameson v. Still" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission reversing the administrative law judge's (ALJ) award of permanent and total disability (PTD) benefits against the Second Injury Fund, holding that the Commission's findings were supported by substantial and competent evidence.Christopher Klecka suffered a compensable work-related injury to his left shoulder. After settling the primary claim with his employer Klecka brought a claim against the Fund, alleging that his primary injury combined with his prior injuries rendered him permanently and totally disabled (PTD). An ALJ issued an award against the fund for PTD benefits. The Commission reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Klecka failed to establish that his primary injury and sole qualifying preexisting disability entitled him to PTD benefits from the Fund under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3. View "Klecka v. Treasurer of Missouri" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the State's motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing Plaintiffs' action seeking a declaration that the Second Amendment Protection Act (SAPA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.410 through 1.485, is unconstitutional and requesting injunctive relief, holding that Plaintiffs had no adequate remedy at law other than to pursue their declaratory judgment action.Plaintiffs - the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Jackson County - brought this action challenging SAPA. The State filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, alleging that Plaintiffs had adequate remedies at law. The circuit court sustained the motion, finding that Plaintiffs had an adequate remedy at law because multiple individual lawsuits were pending in which Plaintiffs could bring their constitutional challenges. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs lacked an adequate remedy at law in which to adjudicate their specific constitutional challenges. View "City of St. Louis v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of prohibition requesting that the circuit court prohibit Respondent from determining that he must register as a sex offender, holding that Petitioner failed to establish that he was entitled to the writ.Petitioner pleaded guilty to four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Several months later, Petitioner's probation officer notified him that he was required to register as a sex offender based on allegations in charges that the State later abandoned. Petitioner then filed this petition. The circuit court denied a permanent writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in using the State's abandoned charges to find Petitioner pleaded guilty to sex offenses; but (2) a writ of prohibition was not the proper remedy. View "Doe v. Frisz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of fifteen counts of unlawful possession of a firearm following a jury trial, holding that the circuit court committed reversible error by allowing the jury to hear a prejudicial, out-of-court statement made by a witness who never appeared or testified at trial.After Defendant was arrested on allegations of domestic violence against his wife, Beckey, Beckey told officers that Defendant illegally possessed numerous firearms. Defendant was subsequently charged with fifteen counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm. During trial, the out-of-court statement made by Beckey, who did not appear at trial, was elicited during an officer's testimony. The circuit court ruled that Beckey’s statement could be considered as substantive evidence. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Supreme Court vacated the conviction, holding that the circuit court prejudicially erred in allowing the officer's testimony over Defendant's violation. View "State v. Hollowell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court confirming an arbitration award in favor of Car Credit, Inc., holding that the arbitration agreement was valid and that the circuit court did not err.Cathy Pitts entered into a retail installment contract and security agreement with Car Credit to purchase and finance a vehicle. The parties also entered into a written arbitration agreement. After Car Credit repossessed the vehicle and sued Pitts for the remaining deficiency balance Pitts filed a counterclaim alleging an unlawful and deceptive pattern of wrongdoing followed by Car Credit. The circuit court sustained Car Credit's motion to compel arbitration. The arbitrator entered an award on the merits' of Pitts' claim in favor of Car Credit. The circuit court entered judgment for Car Credit on all causes of action in accordance with the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration agreement was enforceable. View "Car Credit, Inc. v. Pitts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reducing the jury's punitive damages award against HALO Branded Solutions, Inc., holding that the circuit court's application of the punitive damages cap in Mo. Rev. Stat. 510.265 did not violate All Star Awards & Ad Specialities Inc.'s right to a jury trial, and the reduced award did not violate HALO's due process rights.All Star brought this action against HALO and All Star's employee, Doug Ford. A jury found HALO tortiously interfered with All Star's business expectancy, that Ford breached his duty of loyalty to All Star, and that HALO conspired with Ford to breach this duty of loyalty. The jury awarded All Star $525,542 in actual damages and assessed $5.5 million in punitive damages against HALO. The circuit court applied section 510.265 and capped the punitive damages award at five times All Star's actual damages - or $2,627,709 - and entered final judgment in accordance with the jury's verdicts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly reduced All Star's award of punitive damages; and (2) the reduced award was within the constitutional parameters of due process. View "All Star Awards & Ad Specialties, Inc. v. HALO Branded Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding Defendant to be a dangerous offender and remanded the case for resentencing, holding that the State failed to plead all essential facts and introduce evidence establishing sufficient facts to warrant a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was a dangerous offender.A jury found Defendant guilty of four counts of second-degree burglary and sentenced him to a total of thirty years' imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court committed plain error in finding that he was a dangerous offender. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Defendant's sentences, holding that the circuit court plainly erred in sentencing Defendant to sentences greater than the maximum authorized by law, resulting in manifest injustice. View "State v. Yount" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that Mo. Rev. Stat. 595.201, as applied to defense attorneys, is constitutionally invalid and that the passage of Senate Bill 569 (SB 569) was procedurally proper, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment.Plaintiffs - five public defenders and three criminal defendants - brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the constitutional validity of statutes relating to victims of sexual offenses, including SB 569 and section 595.021, which requires criminal defense attorneys to provide information to victims of sexual assault offenses. The circuit court (1) declared section 595.201 constitutionally invalid as as applied to defense counsel because it violated defense attorneys' rights to freedom of speech, and (2) rejected procedural challenges to SB 569 as a whole. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly determined that (1) section 595.201.2(4)'s requirements violate defense attorneys' free speech rights, and (2) the General Assembly complied with the procedural limitations imposed by the Missouri Constitution in passing SB 569. View "Fox v. State" on Justia Law