Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Whelan Security Co. v. Charles Kennebrew, Sr., and W. Landon Morgan[1]

Opinion handed down August 14, 2012

Whelan Security Company (Whelan) appealed a trial court’s conclusion that its non-compete agreements with two employees was overbroad and unreasonable in time and space. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the non-compete agreements were unreasonable, but modified the agreement to fit the intent of the parties.

Hervey v. Missouri Department of Corrections[1]

Opinion handed down August 14, 2012

Plaintiff Deborah Hervey sued her employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections, under the Missouri Human Rights Act for discriminating against her because of her disability.[2]  The department contested whether Ms. Hervey had a disability at all and defended its decision to terminate her for poor performance.[3]  Despite the department’s objection, the trial court submitted Ms. Hervey’s verdict-directing instruction to the jury instead of the department’s alternate verdict director, which included a separate paragraph requiring the jury to specifically find that Ms. Hervey was indeed disabled in order to find for her.[4]  The jury returned a verdict in Ms. Hervey’s favor for both the discrimination and the retaliation claims.[5]  Ms. Hervey was awarded actual and punitive damages for the disability discrimination claim.[6]  The department appealed and claimed the trial court erred in (1) overruling its objection to Ms. Hervey’s verdict director that did not require the jury to specifically find Ms. Hervey was disabled, as required by the MHRA, and (2) awarding excessive punitive damages as a result of failing to calculate the total in accordance with Section 510.265, RSMO 2011.[7]  On appeal, a majority of the Supreme Court of Missouri agreed with the department, and reversed and remanded the judgment of the trial court since Ms. Hervey’s proffered instruction did not require the jury to find an element that was essential to her MHRA claim.[8]