Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court awarding Matthew Vacca actual and punitive damages, including substantial future lost wages, on his claim that he was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging disability discrimination, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to apply judicial estoppel to Vacca’s claim of future lost wages. The circuit court found Vacca claimed in this case that he could have continued to work as an administrative law judge (ALJ) for twenty more years. In Vacca’s ongoing dissolution proceeding, however, he claimed he was entitled to maintenance because he was totally unable to work due to his disability. The circuit court concluded that it was barred from applying judicial estoppel because the dissolution judgment had been remanded for further proceedings based on evidentiary errors. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) once a party takes inconsistent positions, there are no fixed prerequisites to application of judicial estoppel; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to apply judicial estoppel to preclude Vacca from making the inconsistent claim that he was able to work as an ALJ for another twenty years with reasonable accommodations. View "Vacca v. Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (Commission) on Appellants’ consolidated allegations of violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (Act), Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.010 et seq., holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Appellants’ claims failed under Pittman v. Cook Paper Recycling Corp., 478 S.W.3d 479 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). Specifically, the circuit court relied upon Pittman’s holding that the Act does not include claims for sex discrimination based upon sexual orientation and then extended that rationale to include claims for sex discrimination based upon sex stereotyping. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the Commission improperly characterized Appellants’ claims as sexual orientation discrimination, and therefore, the circuit court’s reliance on Pittman was misplaced; and (2) the circuit court erred in issuing summary judgment in favor of Defendant because the Act covers sex discrimination. View "Lampley v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding the board of regents of Harris-Stowe State University liable on Dr. Shereen Kader’s claims of national origin discrimination and retaliation under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. The jury returned a verdict in Dr. Kader’s favor on her claims of national original discrimination and retaliation, awarding $750,000 in actual damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages. The circuit court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict. On appeal, Harris-Stowe argued that the circuit court’s disjunctive jury instructions Nos. 8 and 9 misled and confused the jury, thereby resulting in prejudice. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial because they included at least one alternative that did not constitute actionable conduct under the MHRA. View "Kader v. Board of Regents of Harris-Stowe State University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment granting summary judgment in favor of the Missouri Department of Public Safety’s Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and dismissing Appellant’s first amended petition for review under Mo. Rev. Stat. 536 on the grounds that Appellant failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Appellant’s employment with the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was terminated following a disciplinary action. Appellant filed a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission. The Commission dismissed the complaint, finding that Appellant was not a merit employee entitled to a hearing before the Commission and that the Division had internal appeal procedures for its employees. Thereafter, Appellant filed an amended petition for review. The circuit court dismissed the petition with prejudice because Appellant failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Appellant’s action because it lacked authority to review the Division’s administrative decision as a “contested case” pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 536.100, as alleged in the first amended petition. View "Nowden v. Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Control, Missouri Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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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 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission denying workers’ compensation for the death of Patricia White’s husband, Ulysses. Ulysses suffered a fatal cardiovascular event while at work. The Commission concluded that Patricia had not met her burden of establishing that the cardiovascular event was caused by an accident. Patricia appealed, arguing that the Commission erred by applying the wrong burden of proof to her claims under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.120 and 287.020. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Patricia failed to establish that an accident was the prevailing factor in causing Ulysses’s injury, as required by section 287.020.3(4). View "White v. Conagra Packaged Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission awarding Employee workers’ compensation benefits representing fifty percent permanent partial disability of the body as a whole and the right to future medical care for her work-related mental injury. On appeal, Employer argued that the Commission misapplied the law and that the award was not supported by sufficient, competent, and substantial evidence. The Supreme Court remanded the cause, holding that the Commission failed to apply the the applicable and clear statutory standards when reviewing Employee’s claim. View "Mantia v. Missouri Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court judgments denying two employers’ requests for permanent writs of mandamus against the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). The circuit court rejected Employers’ arguments that the MCHR was required to first determine whether Employers’ employees’ complaints of discrimination were timely filed with the MCHR before the MCHR had authority to issue the employees a right-to-sue letter. The Supreme Court held (1) Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.111.1 requires the MCHR to issue a right-to-sue letter and terminate all proceedings related to a complaint if 180 days have elapsed and the employee has made written request for a right-to-sue letter; and (2) because that is what occurred in both of these cases, the MCHR was required to issue the right-to-sue letters, and the circuit court properly refused to issue writs directing the MCHR to perform an act the MHRA prohibits. View "State ex rel. Tivol Plaza, Inc. v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law