Tuesday, July 31, 2012

State ex rel. Missouri Public Defenders Commisison v. Waters[1]

Opinion handed down July 31, 2012
The state’s public defender office opposed its assignment to represent a criminal defendant when it had exceeded its caseload capacity for three consecutive months, eventually seeking a writ of prohibition to have the Supreme Court of Missouri order the trial judge to set aside the appointment. The Court held that the trial judge exceeded its authority by appointing the representation in contravention of administrative regulations governing the public defender office.

Mendenhall v. Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford[1]

Opinion handed down July 31, 2012

Len Mendenhall worked for Jay Walker on his cattle farm.[2]  While at work one day, Mr. Mendenhall was killed in an accident when the truck he was unloading overturned.[3]  The truck was owned by the Family Center[4] and covered by business liability insurance.[5]  Ruth Mendenhall, his wife, filed a wrongful death suit against the Walkers and the Family Center, seeking indemnification of her judgment against Jay Walker from the liability insurance.[6]  The insurance company contended that Mr. Mendenhall was excluded by the insurance coverage because he was considered an “employee” under the insurance policy.[7]  The Supreme Court of Missouri held that because of an ambiguity in the exclusionary language and various definitions for an “employee,” the policy must be interpreted in favor of Mrs. Mendenhall.[8]

Watts v. Cox Medical Centers[1]

Opinion handed down July 31, 2012

Deborah Watts filed a medical malpractice suit against Cox Medical Centers after her son, Naython Watts, was born with disabling brain injuries.  After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Watts for $1.45 million in non-economic damages and $3.371 million in future medical damages, the trial court entered a judgment reducing Watts’ non-economic damages to $350,000 as required by RSMo 538.210.  The court also established a periodic payment schedule requiring immediate payment of half of all net future medical damages with the other half paid in equal annual installments over the next 50 years with an interest rate of 0.26 percent pursuant to RSMo 538.220.  Watts appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri alleging that RSMo 538.220 violates, among others, the right to trial by jury provision of the Missouri Constitution and that the periodic payment schedule established by the court did not assure full compensation due to the low interest rate and 50-year payment.  Cox filed a cross-appeal asserting that the trial court erred in its immediate award of half of future medical damages.  The Missouri Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that section 538.210 is unconstitutional, that the trial court abused its discretion when entering the periodic payment schedule, and that section 538.220 gives the judge the authority to determine the manner in which future damages shall be paid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Planned Parenthood of Minn., N.D., S.D., v. Rounds[1]

Opinion handed down July 24, 2012

Abortion providers brought an action in federal court challenging the constitutionality of South Dakota’s amended abortion statute, contending that several of the statute’s provisions constituted an undue burden on abortion rights and facially violated patients’ and physicians’ free speech rights.[2]  The case has been the subject of litigation for years.[3]  This appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit focused on whether the statute’s suicide advisory provision was constitutional.  The Eighth Circuit, sitting en banc, concluded that the suicide advisory provision of the South Dakota abortion statue presented neither an undue burden on abortion rights nor violated a physician’s free speech rights.[4]