JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court has agreed with a St. Louis County court that nontort judgments automatically accrue post-judgment interest.
In suits that Thomas Dennis and Sonya Cherry brought against Mercy Hospital Jefferson and its debt collection firm, Riezman Berger, alleging improper collection of post-judgment interest, the high court vacated the Circuit Court ruling and remanded it for the court to consider the plaintiffs' remaining claims.
"While the petitions may have adequately stated a claim for relief against Mercy Hospital and Riezman Berger for other reasons, this Court agrees with the circuit court’s ruling that nontort judgments automatically accrue post-judgment interest," states the en banc ruling written by Justice W. Brent Powell.
Dennis and Cherry received medical care from Mercy in separate and unrelated circumstances, according to background information in the ruling. And they each faced breach-of-contract suits.
According to the ruling, Dennis entered into a consent judgment with the hospital in which he would pay $850 plus $122.94 in court costs.
The hospital also obtained a default judgment from Cherry in the amount of $23,325.30.
Neither judgment provided for post-judgment interest.
The hospital hired Riezman Berger to collect the judgments, as well as the interest.
Both Dennis and Cherry filed separate suits against Mercy and Riezman Berger, alleging violations of the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, the ruling states.
The hospital and the debt-collection firm moved to dismiss the suits for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The cases were consolidated, and the Circuit Court agreed with the defendants' argument.
“While it may be best practice that a judgment state the entire amount due, both the principal and interest, the successful litigant does not forfeit the right to collect the statutorily authorized interest by the lack of a specific award as to post-judgment interest in nontort actions,” Powell wrote. “The judgment must only recite the “money due” or principal, and then the statute makes that amount bear interest, at the statutorily defined rate, to the time of payment.”