Revisions to Punitive Damages in Missouri

Lauren L. Wood

By Lauren L. Wood



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

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 »

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 »

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 »

Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich Vacates CDC Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn May 5, 2021, Federal District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in Alabama Association of Realtors, et al.  v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., determined the Federal Public Health Service Act, which governs the federal government’s response to infectious diseases such as COVID-19, does not provide legal authority for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium. Originally set to lapse on December 31, 2020, the eviction moratorium is set to lapse on June 30, 2021. Judge Friedrich reasoned the Public Health Service Act unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium and issued an Order advising that the current CDC nationwide eviction moratorium issued is vacated.

The nationwide eviction moratorium was initially put in place in September 2020 under the Trump Administration and has been extended three times. Judge Friedrich indicated there was “no doubt” Congress intended to empower the CDC to combat COVID-19 through different measures, such as quarantines, but not a moratorium on landlord evictions.  Other federal courts have been divided over the CDC landlord eviction moratorium, with some also finding the CDC exceeded its authority, though none formally blocked its enforcement. The March 25, 2021 blog post “CDC Eviction Moratorium Declared Unconstitutional by Texas Court” discussed other recent rulings in Ohio and Texas: 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 »

CDC Eviction Moratorium Declared Unconstitutional by Texas Court

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn February 25, 2021 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted plaintiffs’ (landlords’ and property managers’) Motion for Summary Judgment, ruling that decisions to enact eviction moratoriums rest with the states. In Lauren Terkel, et al. v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al., the court ruled that the federal government’s Article I power under the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce and enact necessary and proper laws (Necessary and Proper Clause) “does not include the power” to order all evictions be stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium order in September 2020 which was set to expire on December 31, 2020. Initially extended to January 31, 2021, the Order was then extended to March 31, 2021.  The CDC Order “generally makes it a crime for a landlord or property owner to evict a ‘covered person’ from a residence” provided certain criteria are met. Under the CDC Order, the tenant(s) must submit a Declaration, signed by the tenant(s) and served on the landlord, and requires the tenant(s) to make their best efforts to obtain governmental assistance before they can obtain status as a covered person to avoid an eviction. The landlord is not required to notify the tenant that they can execute a CDC Declaration to obtain status as a covered person.  The CDC’s Order also grants the Department of Justice (DOJ) authority to initiate criminal proceedings and allows the imposition of fines up to $500,000 against landlords who violate the Order after receiving a CDC Declaration from all tenants on the premises. Continue reading »

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and Extension of the CDC Halt to Temporary Evictions to Prevent Further COVID-19 Spread

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumUpdated 4/1/2021

On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued an Order under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The CDC Order was deemed to terminate by December 31, 2021; however, the December 27, 2020 Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement extended the moratorium until January 31, 2021. After an extension in January until March 31, the eviction moratorium is now extended until June 30, 2021. However, In Terkel v. CDC, a Texas District Court determined the CDC Order was unconstitutional. The Department of Justice field an appeal in Terkel. Since the DOJ appealed the Texas case, it would be wise for landlords to continue to operate as if the CDC Order is constitutional and in effect, especially outside of Texas. However, this does not prevent landlords from requesting an evidentiary hearing and contesting whether the tenant(s) met all the criteria in the CDC Declaration to obtain status as a covered person. If not, or if the tenant(s) did not serve a CDC Declaration on the landlord, then it appears the landlord can proceed with the eviction.

To invoke protection from the CDC Order, all tenants on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract must execute the CDC Declaration and give notice to their landlord. The landlord is not required to notify the tenant(s) about the CDC Declaration.

Failure to execute the CDC Declaration by all tenants prohibits any potentially covered person from being protected from an eviction through the CDC Order if  solely for failure to pay rent.  A landlord can still evict a tenant for any other breach of the residential lease while the CDC order is in effect. Continue reading »

What, Me Worry? If You Store Customers’ Personal Information on Your Computer System, You Should!

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



ransomwareMAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Nuemann would famously say, “What, Me Worry?”  If you store personal information about your clients or customers on your computer, however, you should worry that it is properly secured.

Hackers and other malevolent individuals on the world wide web are constantly trying to compromise or steal data from your computer system to sell on the dark web.  They particularly target names combined with (1) social security numbers, (2) credit or debit card numbers or other account information, (3) security or access codes or passwords,  or (4) medical or health insurance information.

Another common form of cyberattack is to plant ransomware on a target’s computer system.  Ransomware encrypts the data on the system making it inaccessible to the system’s owner, leaving a ransom note as the only thing readable on the affected system. Continue reading »

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill Allowing for Prejudgment Interest on Personal Injury Claims

Litigation Practice Group

By Litigation Practice Group



personal injuryIllinois law traditionally has not allowed for prejudgment interest on personal injury claims, but that rule is about to change. On January 13, 2021, the Illinois legislature passed House Bill 3360. The original purpose of the bill was to amend Illinois law relating to mortgage foreclosures and abandoned residential property. However, Senate Floor Amendment No. 1 modified the bill to introduce prejudgment interest for personal injury claims in Illinois.

Prejudgment interest on personal injury actions was not available under the common law, so generally it is only allowed when authorized by a statute. Illinois HB 3360 provides that in all actions for personal injury or wrongful death, the plaintiff shall recover prejudgment interest on all damages set forth in a subsequent judgment at the interest rate of 9% per annum.

Of note is when prejudgment interest begins to accrue under the bill. Among the jurisdictions allowing prejudgment interest on personal injury claims, a plethora of approaches has emerged for determining the starting point. Some states require the rejection of a formal demand with specific requirements (such as Missouri, § 408.040 RSMo.), others from the date of the loss (such as Florida, Fla. Stat. § 687.01), or still others from the date of the filing of the complaint (such as Michigan, Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.6013). Continue reading »

Financial Relief for Your Troubled Small Business Clients

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



bankruptcyIt’s no secret that many small businesses are facing financial troubles these days, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the rapid and unpredictable twists and turns of the current economy. This article will discuss, in two parts, the various ways in which a financially troubled business can seek financial relief, ranging from informal negotiations and state statutory remedies to filing a Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy case, so that attorneys can provide general assistance to their small business clients, or refer them to an insolvency attorney if appropriate.

Part I: Negotiations and State Statutory Remedies

Informal Workouts

If a debtor is on good terms with its creditors, especially its primary lenders, it may be able to earn itself out of its financial troubles. The secured creditors, of course, must be treated with full respect for their security interests in the assets of the debtor. Unsecured suppliers of critical goods and services also must be treated with care, as their cooperation may be needed at some point in the future.

It is often useful for a debtor to obtain an appraisal of its assets, both real and personal, from well-respected appraisers experienced in their fields. The appraisal should value the assets at three levels: forced liquidation value, orderly liquidation value, and fair market value. These values will enable the debtor to intelligently discuss the likelihood of collection in different situations.

Another useful action would be to hire a consultant. Sometimes business owners cannot see opportunities for improvement which are right in front of them, simply because they think that the current practice works well. The consultant can help the owner review the company’s operating procedures, cash flow procedures and pricing structure to look for opportunities to increase profitability.

The consultant also could prepare projections of future profitability for the company, based upon the opportunities which are discovered. Armed with the collateral valuations and projections, the owner can show the company’s creditors a plan for solving its problems.[1] That is much more effective than simply asking for more time or engaging in stalling tactics.

Statutory Remedies

1. Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors

Continue reading »

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