Missouri appeals court sides with injured plaintiff's claims of inadequate damages

By Sam Knef | Nov 22, 2017

ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District has sided with a plaintiff who appealed a jury's verdict in a personal injury case, claiming the damages awarded were inadequate.

In a decision filed on Nov. 14, a three-judge panel reversed the award of $25,000 to Randy Schieffer who suffered neck, back and shoulder pain after being struck from behind by a vehicle driven by defendant Thomas DeCleene on Nov. 17, 2011.

Justices Mary K. Hoff, Colleen Dolan and Presiding Judge Lisa S. Van Amburg remanded the case for a new trial citing improperly admitted evidence.

Schieffer sued in 2014 claiming negligence and later added loss of consortium by his wife, Dinah Schieffer, and specifically asked for $28,760.74 in medical expenses to date.

The case went to trial in St. Louis County Circuit Court nearly five years later on Nov. 7, 2016. On the morning of trial, Schieffer’s attorney asked for and was granted leave by Judge Joseph L. Walsh to file a second amended petition, which merely omitted recovery of medical expenses.

At that point, the court considered whether deletion of medical expenses foreclosed defense counsel from presenting evidence of medical expenses to the jury.

Schieffer's attorney argued that presenting the evidence would be beyond the scope of pleadings; however, the trial court allowed the evidence to be admitted.

Because Schieffer had suffered low back pain before he was struck by DeCleene's vehicle, DeCleene's attorney deduced at trial that his relevant medical bills totaled $14,743.75 and suggested an appropriate verdict would be $25,000.

In closing arguments, Schieffer's attorney suggested a verdict of $300,000, reflecting awards of $125,000 for past pain and suffering, $125,000 for future pain and suffering, and an amount for medical expenses, the ruling states.

"Since Mr. Schieffer’s second amended petition deleted any claim for the recovery of medical expenses, evidence of his medical costs following the November 2011 collision was outside the scope of the pleadings and irrelevant, and 'we can only conclude that the jury took it into consideration when they awarded a verdict' amounting to $25,000 because the evidence 'was all before the jury even though not specifically pleaded,'" the panel held.

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