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Annual Law Update 2001

General Torts, Sovereign Immunity & Professional Negligence

 

PREPARED BY KENT L. BROWN


 

Krentz v. Robertson, 228 F. 3d 897 (8th Cir. 2000). Fire chief with seven year contract of employment failed to seek judicial review under Section 536.100 et. seq. thereby losing the right to bring suit for breach of contract, due process violation and various torts.

Daniels v. Curators of Lincoln University, 51 S.W.3d 1 (Mo. App. W. D. 2001). University Vice President had constitutionally protected interest in continuing in his position even though he was classified by University as at will employee. Statements in the handbook and prior course of dealing between the parties supported the finding of a protected property interest.

Bowen v. Missouri Department of Conservation, 46 S.W.3d 1 (Mo. App. W. D. 2001). Conservation agent terminated for alleged misconduct was entitled to a determination that his termination was “for the good of the service” but it was not necessary that his termination be “for cause.”

Craig v. Department of Health, - - - S.W.3d - - - , WL 1401965 (Mo. App. W. D. 2001) (WD Case NO. 58799, decided November 13, 2001). State employee sued Department of Health for discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Shortly before trial it was determined the ADA did not apply to states. The Honorable Judge Nanette Laughrey, United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, allowed Plaintiff to amend to add a Missouri Human Rights Act disability claim and remanded the case to the Circuit Court of Cole County from which it was previously removed. Shortly before the remand Plaintiff filed an amended pleading in the state court. After remand, the state trial judge granted Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, reversed the trial court’s dismissal holding the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to allow the proposed amendment.

Bever v. State Bd. of Registration for Healing Arts, 2001 WL 68307 (Mo.App. W.D. 2001) (Jan. 30, 2001) transferred to Mo. Sup. Ct.. Board violated Sunshine Law in discipline case by holding closed deliberations.

SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY

Root v. New Liberty Hospital District, 209 F.3d. 1068 (8th Cir. 2000). Sovereign Immunity does not bar suit under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

Jones v. City of Kansas City, 15 S.W.3d 736 (Mo. banc 2000). Statute requiring notice within ninety (90) days of injury arising from defect in condition of city street did not apply to pedestrian’s claim alleging improper use of yield sign resulted in automobile colliding with him. The allegedly defective yield sign was not a part of any bridge, boulevard, street, sidewalk, or thoroughfare within the scope of §82.210 RSMo. so notice was not required.

Cottey v. Schmitter, 24 S.W.3d 126 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000). $250,000.00 judgment against Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission and its employee arising from snowplow accident was reduced to $100,000.00 against the Commission in recognition of the sovereign immunity statutory cap, but the plaintiff could collect the entire amount from the driver even though the Commission might be obligated to pay on the driver’s behalf. The fact the Missouri State Legal Expense Fund was obligated to defend and pay claims against state employees arising out of their official duties does not expand the state’s liability beyond the statutory limits and is not limited by the sovereign immunity waiver cap.

Benoit v. Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, 33 S.W.3d 663 (Mo. App. S.D. 2000). The sovereign immunity damage cap did not preclude an award of post-judgment interest in an amount greater than $100,000.

McNeill Trucking Company, Inc. v. Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, 35 S.W.3d 846 (Mo. banc 2001). Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission was subject to a trucking company’s claim for contribution notwithstanding sovereign immunity. The Commission argued that a contribution claim is a separate cause of action for which immunity has not been waived, but the court held section 537.600 RSMo. allows claims for contribution where the underlying claim is not barred by sovereign immunity.

Smith v. Coffey, 37 S.W.3d 797 (Mo. banc 2000). Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission could be held jointly and severally liable up to the statutory immunity cap for a judgment against a co-defendant in an automobile accident case. The statue was neither an unconstitutional use of public funds to pay a private debt nor an unconstitutional diversion of public funds appropriated for state highway uses. The statutory sovereign immunity waiver was not limited to injuries caused exclusively by MHTC.

MISCELLANEOUS CASES

Nemani v. St. Louis University, 33 S.W.2d 184 (Mo. 2000). A professor employed by a university gives implied consent to the university to use his name in grant applications.

Murray v. Mo. Highway and Trans. Commission, 37 S.W.3d 228 (Mo. banc 2000). The statute requiring the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission to arbitrate negligence claims when requested to do so by the plaintiff is constitutional and the Commission must agree to arbitration upon request.

Antle v. Reynolds, 15 S.W.3d 762 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000). Overruling Minton v. Hill. the Western District Court of Appeals has allowed a car buyer to sue a motor vehicle dealer for specific performance of a sales contract even though the title was never transferred to buyer. Previous cases had refused to allow such suits because the Missouri motor vehicle title law prescribed the exclusive method whereby ownership of motor vehicles may be transferred. In this case, the Western District held that the Merchandising Practices Act was intended to protect the innocent from the wiles of the wicked so the wrongful refusal of the car dealer to transfer title in the statutory manner should not result in a situation where the dealer’s wrongful act gives it immunity from suit.