Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Doe Run Resources Corporation v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance

            The Supreme Court of Missouri considered whether a pollution exclusion in a commercial general liability policy issued to Doe Run barred coverage for bodily injury caused by exposure to toxic emissions stemming from Doe Run's lead production facilities in Peru.  The pollution exclusion defined pollutant to mean "any solid, liquid, gaseous, or thermal irritant or contaminant."  At issue was whether lead, emitted in its particulate form, was an "irritant or contaminant."  The court applied the dictionary definition of those terms and concluded that the pollution exclusion applied to bar coverage.

Monday, December 4, 2017

K.M.M. v. K.E.W.

            The Missouri Court of Appeals', Eastern District, decision in K.M.M. v. K.E.W. highlights potential struggles in custody when the parties involved are a same-sex, unmarried couple with a child conceived by artificial insemination.  The decision dodged the constitutional equal protection violation question and instead reached a resolution grounded in third party custody statutory factors. While the holding of the Eastern District is equitable given the circumstances, it does not solidify any rights for the non-biological parent in a same-sex custody situation.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

State v. Clay

            In State v. Clay, defendant Clay appealed his conviction for second degree murder and armed criminal action citing improper jury instructions even though his counsel actively participated in the drafting of the instructions.[1]  Defense counsel failed to request, or object to the absence of, “withdrawal” language in the self-defense instruction proffered to the jury at the trial court.[2]  Consequently, the jury never considered whether Clay had regained the privilege of self-defense after he was found to be the initial aggressor.[3]  The Supreme Court of Missouri properly affirmed Clay’s conviction[4] and reestablished the historical maxim that “nullus commondum capere protest de injuria sua propria,” or “no one shall be allowed to profit from his own wrong.”[5]

Sunday, November 5, 2017

In re SuperValu, Inc.

15.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2016.[1]  Data breaches are becoming more common, and some consumers want to sue the company that suffered the data breach.  There is a circuit split regarding whether the consumers whose information was stolen satisfy the injury element of standing.[2]  The Eighth Circuit contributed to that split in In re SuperValu by holding that the consumers did not satisfy the injury requirement because they had not yet and may never suffer identity theft.[3]

Gittemeier v. State of Missouri

            After his felony and misdemeanor convictions were affirmed, Paul Gittemeier filed a pro se post-conviction relief motion. Mr. Gittemeier’s appointed counsel filed an amended motion for post-conviction relief and received an extension of time from the motion court. Before that brief was filed, Mr. Gittemeier retained private counsel who also received an extension of time from the same motion court. When the court denied the motion for untimeliness, Paul asserted the doctrine of abandonment. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the abandonment doctrine only applies to appointed post-conviction counsel, not privately retained counsel. The abandonment doctrine was put in place to help individuals whose attorneys abandon them during the post-conviction process; limiting this rule to appointed counsel only defeats the purpose behind the rule and punishes individuals who retain counsel.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mantia v. Missouri Department of Transportation

            A highway department employee who responded to the scene of approximately 1000 catastrophic automobile accidents needed to compare her work-related stress to that of similarly situated employees to receive workers’ chompensation benefits for her mental injury, according to the Supreme Court of Missouri.  The Court overruled the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, which found that the 2005 amendments to Missouri Revised Statutes section 287.120.8 required strict construction. This abrogated case law required claimants with mental injury claims to present evidence proving that the amount of stress they experienced was “extraordinary and unusual” compared to other similarly situated employees.  The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed and held that the term “objective” in the statute meant “whether the same or similar actual work events would cause a reasonable highway worker extraordinary and unusual stress.”[1]

Friday, October 6, 2017

State v. Johnson

Predatory sexual offenders, as defined in Missouri Revised Statutes section 558.018.5(3), are subject to a minimum sentence of life imprisonment with a chance of parole.[1] Angelo Johnson (“Defendant”) was convicted of twelve counts of sexually-related crimes against juveniles but tried to argue that he could not be a predatory sexual offender because that distinction only applied to prior acts.[2] The Supreme Court of Missouri disagreed, holding that section 558.018.5(3) applied to charged acts, was not facially unconstitutional, and the circuit court’s error from violating section 558.021.2 did not result in manifest injustice in State v. Johnson.[3]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Corozzo v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

            After prospective employees Joshua Corozzo and Arthor Ruff were given a consumer report disclosure form from Walmart[1], they filed suit against Walmart for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s (“FCRA”) provision requiring the form not contain extraneous information.[2] The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, held that neither Corozzo nor Ruff had standing to challenge the FCRA violation because the Supreme Court of the United States, in Spokeo v. Robins, Inc., held that an alleged FCRA violation alone was not an injury, and therefore, the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue.[3] Although the Court’s holding is clear, it failed to meaningfully distinguish federal, Article III standing and Missouri’s state-specific standing doctrine, effectively making them one in the same in terms of statutory violations.

Friday, September 8, 2017

McHugh v. Slomka

            The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District’s, decision in McHugh v. Slomka is the first case in Missouri to address a contractual provision in a Marital Separation Agreement about the modification of spousal maintenance in a post-dissolution proceeding. This decision follows other states in allowing the enforcement of specific bargained-for terms in a Marital Separation Agreement, contrary to the general rule that a spouse’s post-dissolution increase in income does not, on its own, establish a basis for an upward modification in the maintenance amount.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Rock Port Market, Inc. v. Affiliated Foods Midwest Cooperative, Inc.

            Missouri courts distinguish breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, a contract-based claim, from the tort of bad faith.[1]  Rock Port continues to emphasize this distinction.[2]  The court allowed a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing but did not recognize the tort of bad faith in a new context: commercial contracts.[3]  This was because there was no fiduciary relationship between the parties.[4]  While recognizing the breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in commercial contracts might discourage unethical business practices, the tort makes it difficult to estimate potential damages when entering into a contract and discourages an economically efficient breach of contract.[5] 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Willbanks v. State Department of Corrections

In Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender convicted for a nonhomicide offense.[1] The Supreme Court declined to answer whether any terms of years sentence would violate the Eighth Amendment, giving lower courts no guidance on the issue. Without any guidance from the Supreme Court or the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the Supreme Court of Missouri in Willbanks narrowly read Graham and held that terms of years sentences for nonhomicide offenses, which leave a juvenile no realistic opportunity for parole, do not violate the defendant’s Eighth Amendment rights.[2]

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bishop & Associates, LLC v. Ameren Corp.

          After reporting possible issues with facilities owned by Ameren Corporation (“Ameren”), its plumbing contractor’s (“Bishop”) long-time employment with Ameren was terminated. When Bishop filed suit against Ameren for a public policy violation, the Supreme Court of Missouri, upon transfer, held that there is no common law cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy for independent contractors, affirming the circuit court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Ameren and its supervisors. The Court held that the narrow public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine only applies in the employee-employer context, which excludes independent contractors.

Bowers v. Bowers

            The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, decision in Bowers v. Bowers sets a troubling precedent for all parties involved in custody battles when there are more than two "parents" hoping to secure parenting time with their minor children. The complex nature of custody cases is further complicated with this new precedent that gives additional weight to the rights of non-biological parents and other third-party individuals hoping to obtain custody of minor children involved in litigation.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Newsome v. Kansas City Missouri School District

            It is important for the courts to recognize the public policy exception to at-will employment because it prevents employers from firing employees for following statutes and other rules.  The Supreme Court of Missouri first recognized a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy in 2010.[1]  In Newsome, the Supreme Court of Missouri expanded the public policy exception to at-will employment.[2]  The court upheld an employee’s claim against a school district for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy when the employee refused to alter the school district’s contract in violation of the policy behind a statute.

Wilson v. P.B. Patel, M.D., P.C.

            The Supreme Court of Missouri overturned a jury verdict in favor of the defendant in a medical malpractice case, stating that evidence regarding the patient's informed consent to the procedure was not relevant and likely confused the jury.[1]  The court stated that the trial judge should have granted Plaintiff Josephine Wilson's request for a withdrawal instruction relating to the fact that she signed a consent form allowing Defendant Dr. Rohtashav Dhir to perform the procedure.[2]  The case was brought on improper care grounds and not on lack of informed consent grounds, which are separate and distinct theories of medical malpractice.[3]  This case note will examine the procedural issues raised when evidence is introduced by both parties on a different theory of negligence than what was presented in the pleadings and affirmative defenses.

Friday, March 24, 2017

State v. Naylor

 Opinion handed down March 14, 2017

            Orlando Naylor was convicted in the Circuit Court of Ste. Genevieve County of first-degree burglary for entering a restaurant’s office area while another person was present inside the building.[1]  The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, held that there was insufficient evidence to convict Naylor of this crime because no person was in the office area during the commission of the crime.[2]  On appeal to the Supreme Court of Missouri, the court expanded the definition of the term “structure,” thus reversing the appellate court’s decision.[3]

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cooperative Home Care, Inc. v. City of St. Louis,

 Opinion handed down February 28, 2017

            In Cooperative Home Care, Inc. v. City of St. Louis, the Supreme Court of Missouri examined whether the Missouri state minimum wage law preempts cities and municipalities from adopting a higher local minimum wage.[1]  The court held that the Missouri state minimum wage was a floor, rather than a ceiling, which allows cities to adopt ordinances that require employers to pay a higher hourly wage than that required by state law.[2]  However, recent legislation may effectively overturn this decision, adversely affecting low-wage workers in areas with higher average costs of living, particularly those in urban areas.

Friday, February 24, 2017

State v. Twitty

 Opinion handed down January 17, 2017

While it may be a seemingly straightforward crime, “possession of a chemical with the intent to create a controlled substance”[1] leaves significant lingering discord among Missouri courts regarding whether the requisite element of possession strictly refers to possession at the time of the arrest or whether it allows for more flexible temporal ranges.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

State ex rel. Tipler v. Gardner

Opinion handed down January 31, 2017
            In State ex rel. Tipler v. Gardner, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that article I, section 18(c) of the Missouri Constitution applies to all trials that occur after its enactment date, December 4, 2014, regardless of the date when the charged conduct occurred.[1]  The constitutional provision at issue, passed into law by Missouri voters in the 2014 general election, allows evidence of prior criminal acts, charged or uncharged, to be introduced at trial for crimes of a sexual nature involving a child.[2]  Tipler had argued that this provision operated as an ex post facto law because the alleged crime occurred before this constitutional amendment was passed into law by Missouri voters.[3]  The court’s holding is an affirmation of the long-held principle that laws that affect evidentiary rules only are not ex post facto because the “event” that they modify is the trial itself, not the conduct which gave rise to the trial.

Monday, January 23, 2017

State v. Holman

Opinion handed down December 6, 2016
After fatally shooting his wife, David Holman (“Defendant”) was read his Miranda rights and proceeded to talk with law enforcement officials, giving incriminating statements.[1]  Only when asked to sign a search consent form to his home, did Defendant state, “I ain’t signing shit without my attorney.”[2]  On interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the Defendant did not clearly and unequivocally invoke his Fifth Amendment right to counsel after being read his Miranda rights and reversed the decision of the lower court.[3]

Thursday, January 19, 2017

City of Kansas City v. Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners

Opinion handed down January 17, 2017

            In an effort to raise Kansas City’s minimum wage from $7.70 an hour to $13 an hour by 2023, a committee in support of such attempted to bring the issue up for a vote on the November 3, 2015, ballot.  On appeal from a trial court’s decision denying the measure to be brought on the ballot, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that any challenge to the ordinance was premature and reversed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

State v. Bazell

Opinion handed down August 23, 2016 

            The Supreme Court of Missouri held that misdemeanor stealing offenses could not be enhanced to felonies under Missouri Revised Statutes section 570.030.3 because the enhancement provision was worded in such a way that rendered it inapplicable to the underlying stealing statute.[1]  The court’s ruling is based on a matter of statutory construction that was not addressed on appeal nor initially briefed by either party on transfer to the Supreme Court of Missouri.[2] 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lopez-Matias v. State

 Opinion handed down December 8, 2016

            In Lopez-Matias v. State, the Supreme Court of Missouri examined whether the denial of the right to be released on bail or other surety to individuals who are unable to provide proof of their lawful presence in the United States violated the Constitution of the State of Missouri.[1]  Ultimately, the court held that the requirement was unconstitutional, as it denied the defendant his constitutional right to have his conditions for release examined on an individual basis, in which the particular circumstances of his case could be analyzed.[2]