Revisions to Punitive Damages in Missouri

Lauren L. Wood

By Lauren L. Wood



Authored by Lauren L. Wood with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

personal injuryChanges have been made to punitive damages claims in civil actions filed in Missouri on or after August 28, 2020.

Under the revisions, Missouri Revised Statute Section 510.261 now prohibits parties from making a claim for punitive damages in their initial pleading in a civil action. Any claimant who wishes to add a punitive damages claim to a civil action must file a written motion to amend 120 days prior to the pretrial conference, or, if no conference is scheduled, 120 days prior to trial, seeking leave to bring a claim for punitive damages. The claimant seeking leave must provide exhibits, affidavits, and discovery materials establishing a reasonable basis for the recovery of punitive damages. Any party opposing leave may submit admissible evidence to demonstrate that the standards for a punitive damage award have not been met. The court may grant leave to add the punitive damages claim if it determines that a judge or jury could reasonably conclude, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the standards for a punitive damage award have been met. This statute has the effect of preventing meritless claims being made in litigation as well as saving both the time and money of the parties involved.

Substantive Changes and Clarifications

After clearing the hurdle of obtaining leave to bring a punitive damages claim, a claimant must satisfy the statute’s requirements to receive an award of punitive damages. To do so, RSMo  510.261(1) requires the claimant to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant “intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” The revised statute does three things:

  1. Codifies the original common law regarding punitive damages. In Klingman v. Holmes, 54 Mo. 304, 308 (1873), the first Missouri Supreme Court case allowing an award of punitive damages, the Court held that exemplary damages are only appropriate where an evil intent has manifested itself in acts. The court reasoned that under common law there must have been intent, or positive proof of malice, to justify granting punitive damages.
  2. Clarifies the requisite mental state of the defendant, to intentionally harm without cause or with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others. This gives the judge or fact finder a clear standard for determining whether the claimant is entitled to punitive damages.
  3. Codifies the “clear and convincing” burden of proof standard. The Missouri Supreme Court has previously adopted this standard, but it had yet to be codified.[1],[2] The clear and convincing burden of proof standard falls within the middle ground of the ordinary civil burden of proof standard, preponderance of the evidence, and the criminal law standard, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nominal Damages Continue reading »

Missouri Joined the Rest of the Country in Enacting “Wayfair Tax”

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



taxesMissouri joined the rest of the country in enacting a sales tax on online purchases, commonly known as a “Wayfair tax,” when Governor Parsons signed Senate Bill 153 into law. The governor identified the Wayfair tax as a priority in his 2021 State of the State Address. The Wayfair tax will begin in Missouri on January 1, 2023.

Previously, Missouri businesses who made online sales to Missouri customers were required to charge sales and use tax, while companies without a physical presence in Missouri who made online sales to Missouri customers were not.  The new law allows Missouri to impose a sales tax on online purchases made through vendors such as Etsy, eBay, and Wayfair, that are delivered to the state.

The Wayfair tax is intended to even out the playing field for local businesses to compete with online companies. It is also expected to raise up to $41 million for public schools, $5 million for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and $4.5 million for state parks and soil conservation. Continue reading »

Eviction/Foreclosure Moratorium Changes and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Final Rule on Foreclosure

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn June 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) extended its eviction moratorium order which was set to expire on June 30, 2021.  According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the eviction moratorium will now expire July 31, 2021 and is intended to be the final extension.

Just a few days later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by a group of landlords to allow a federal judge’s decision to block the eviction moratorium to go into effect nationwide while litigation disputes continued to vacate a stay order from Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich that declared the CDC moratorium unlawful (see “Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich Vacates CDC Nationwide Eviction Moratorium”). Washington-based U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of the landlords in May 2021 but put her ruling on hold pending the government’s appeal in the case. The landlords appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower appellate court rejected their request to unfreeze Judge Friedrich’s ruling. The landlord groups, led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, sued to challenge the moratorium, arguing that the CDC exceeded its authority under a federal law called the Public Health Service Act. They wrote in court papers: “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.”  The groups said an eviction ban is no longer needed for public health reasons in light of declining COVID-19 cases and deaths. They also cited the CDC’s May 13, 2021 announcement that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors. Continue reading »

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace Update: Ruth Binger Interview

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid vaccineRuth Binger spoke with KMOV Channel4 News about a possible increase in companies requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for their employees.

According to Ruth, the fact that the vaccination does not yet have FDA approval is keeping many companies from considering a mandatory vaccination policy at this time. To date, none of her clients have a mandatory policy in place. “I do think it’s changing a little bit because of the Delta variant, and now [companies are] thinking about whether or not they should have a mandatory policy.”

Ruth said that another concern employers about enforcing a mandatory COVID-19 policy is the national worker shortage. Continue reading »

Mergers and Acquisition Activity: A Post Pandemic Surge?

Michael J. McKitrick

By Michael J. McKitrick



mergers and acquisitionsMany post-pandemic signals indicate that Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity has increased and is expected to continue to increase. Listings for sales of existing businesses surged in 2021, according to Rob Schmitt, a business broker at the St. Louis Group. Reasons for this increase include:  (1) post-pandemic stability; (2) low interest rates; (3) low capital gain rates; (4) access to government benefits like the PPP program; (4), retiring baby boomers; (5) robust stock values; and (6) the presence of capital on the sidelines waiting to be put to use.

Conditions are favorable for willing sellers and buyers in the M&A arena. Some businesses, including retail and hospitality, have not yet recovered from the pandemic. While some may not consider these to be good subjects for M&A activity, their valuations are low and may present attractive opportunities. There are also sellers who have experienced both the 2008-2009 financial crisis and COVID-19 and have decided that they will not wait any longer to exit. On the other hand, many companies look to expand operations in this favorable environment.

The process typically begins by contacting a M&A specialist, investment banker, business broker or similar advisor to determine how to position your business for sale, or, if you are a buyer, what acquisition candidates exist. After the initial match, Continue reading »

COVID-19 Paid Sick and Family Leave Tax Credits Now Available

Jessica A. Gottsacker

By Jessica A. Gottsacker



covid tax creditThe American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP) is now providing a tax credit for paid sick or family leave related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccinations. Employers can claim tax credits for the wages paid to employees for paid leave due to issues arising from COVID-19, including leave taken to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations, from April 1-September 30, 2021.

To be eligible, your business must have fewer than 500 employees. Tax-exempt organizations qualify as well as governmental employers, other than the federal government and any agency or instrumentality of the federal government that is not an organization described in section 501(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code. Additionally, self-employed individuals are entitled to similar tax credits.

Under ARP, employers may claim tax credits to cover the following: Continue reading »

High Burden of Proof Established for COVID-19 Exposure, Medical, and Products Liability Actions

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



covid19The Missouri House voted to pass Missouri Senate Bill 51, which establishes provisions related to COVID-19 exposure liability actions, COVID-19 medical liability actions, and COVID-19 products liability actions, in the final minutes of the 2021 legislative session.  It was signed by Governor Parsons on July 7, 2021.  The new law will become effective on August 28, 2021, and expire on August 28, 2025.

COVID-19 Exposure Liability

Under Senate Bill 51, no business, service, activity, or accommodation will be liable in any COVID-19 exposure action, unless it is proven by “clear and convincing evidence” that “recklessness or willful misconduct” caused an actual exposure to COVID-19 resulting in personal injury.

  • “Recklessness” is defined as “a conscious, voluntary act or omission in reckless disregard of a legal duty and the consequences to another party.”
  • “Willful misconduct” is defined as “an act or omission that is taken intentionally to achieve a wrongful purpose or in disregard of a known or obvious risk that is so great as to make it highly probable that the harm will outweigh the benefit.”

While we do not know how broadly the courts will interpret these terms, taking actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as requiring mask-wearing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing, could all be helpful in defending a COVID-19 exposure case.  As for vaccinations, the law clearly states, that businesses are not required to establish a policy that requires or mandates vaccination or proof of vaccination to avoid COVID-19 exposure liability.

The new law allows for the presumption that an individual assumes personal risk when the business clearly posts the following message near its entrance: Continue reading »

Recent SEC Rule Amendments Will Make It Easier to Raise Money

Joseph R. Soraghan

By Joseph R. Soraghan



crowdfunding“We’re the SEC, and we’re here to make it easier for small businesses to raise capital. . . . Really, . . . we are . . . really . . . trust us.”

Unbelievable?? Yes, except for the past nine years. But its largesse arrived grudgingly under pressure from Congress in the JOBS Act of 2012, which in turn was due to pressure from the business and entrepreneurial community.

Since the adoption of the Securities Act in 1933, sales of investments by companies and entrepreneurs to investors to raise capital have required either registration with the SEC and states (a long expensive process that is not available to most new and/or small businesses), OR qualification for an “exemption” from the requirement.  The exemptions have historically been difficult and expensive to obtain and are also unavailable to many businesses.

But in the JOBS Act of 2012, Congress adopted 1) two new exemptions: Regulation Crowd Funding and an improved Regulation A (called “Regulation A+”); and, importantly, 2) a requirement for the SEC to modify many of the existing exemptions to significantly improve their availability.  The SEC has since structured the two new exemptions and on November 2, 2020 amended a number of the existing exemptions. The November 2 amendments became effective March 15, 2021. Some of the amendments are as follows: Continue reading »

Illinois Enacts New Restrictions for Considering Criminal History in Employment Decisions and Equal Pay Requirements

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



employmentEmployment law changes regarding human rights and equal pay have arrived in Illinois.  On March 23, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law S.B. 1480, which makes significant amendments to both the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and the Illinois Equal Pay Act (IEPA), effective immediately.

Criminal Conviction Record and Employment

S.B. 1480 amends the IHRA with more limitations on how an employer may use an employee’s or applicant’s criminal conviction record when making employment decisions. It is now a civil rights violation for any employer to use a criminal conviction record as a basis to refuse to hire, terminate, or take any other adverse employment action against the applicant or employee with two exceptions:

  1. There is a “substantial relationship” between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the employment sought or held; or
  2. By granting or continuing employment, an “unreasonable risk” would exist “to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.”[1]

To determine whether a substantial relationship exists, an employer should consider whether the employment position “offers an opportunity for the same or a similar offense to occur and whether the circumstances leading to the conduct for which the person was convicted will recur in the employment position.”[2]

The new law also requires an employer to consider the following relevant factors when making this determination: Continue reading »

American Rescue Plan Act Brings Changes to Employer Obligations

Jessica A. Gottsacker

By Jessica A. Gottsacker



layoff noticeApril 1, 2021 rings in new employer obligations with the enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP). Employers and employees should take note of the recent changes to Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and unemployment benefits to ensure compliance. We have highlighted those changes for you below.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

Between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, employers must offer 100% subsidized COBRA continuation coverage to “assistance eligible individuals” (“AEIs”).  AEIs are any qualifying plan participants who lose, or have lost, health insurance coverage due to a reduction in number of hours of employment or involuntary termination. The government is expected to provide further guidance, but “involuntary termination” is currently defined as termination of employment for any reason other than “gross misconduct.”

Additionally, the following individuals may also be eligible for the subsidy:

  • Individuals previously eligible for COBRA continuation coverage which would have extended into the subsidy period under the ARP who:
    • Did not elect COBRA coverage (e.g., an individual involuntarily terminated on March 30, 2020 who did not elect COBRA but would be within their 18-month coverage period if they had elected COBRA), or
    • Dropped COBRA coverage (e.g., an individual involuntarily terminated on March 30, 2020, who elected COBRA, but did not pay premiums after December 31, 2020 but are still within their 18-month COBRA coverage period).
  • Individuals who are or become eligible during the subsidy period (e.g., an individual involuntarily terminated on March 15, 2021 or an individual involuntarily terminated on May 1, 2021)

The coverage extends to the employees, their spouses, and their dependent children. Similar to the standard COBRA eligibility, once an AEI becomes eligible for other group health insurance coverage or Medicare, they must notify their employer of their loss of eligibility or face a penalty.

Under ARP, employers are required to provide several new notices to those who become eligible for COBRA continuation coverage by May 31, 2021. (The DOL is scheduled to issue model notices by May 10.)

In addition to the current COBRA notice requirements, the initial notice should include the following information: Continue reading »