October 14, 2019

The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District Division Four (“Missouri Appellate Court”), in its opinion filed on October 1, 2019, affirmed a Missouri medical malpractice jury’s verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $14,245,545 that was reduced to $12,820,990 because the jury found the plaintiff to be 10% at fault for his injuries.

The Missouri medical malpractice plaintiff alleged that the defendant health care providers negligently failed to timely diagnose and treat his mesenteric ischemia, which was causing inadequate blood supply to his intestines, thereby requiring the surgical removal of a substantial portion of his lower bowel and resulting in short bowel syndrome. The Missouri medical malpractice jury determined that two of the defendants were 65% at fault and two other defendants were 25% at fault.

The trial court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict and awarded the plaintiff a lump sum of $2,470,990 in past damages to be paid immediately. However, the trial court ordered the periodic payment of the remaining $10,350,000 in future damages that the jury awarded, pursuant to § 538.220.2. The periodic payment schedule required that $988,134 be paid in the first year but with significantly reduced annual payments spread out over four different payment periods over the next 25 years. The trial court also ordered all future damages payments be subject to the fixed interest rate of 1.48 percent, pursuant to § 538.220.

The defendants appealed, challenging the jury’s verdict, and the plaintiff also appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to award him a lump sum sufficient to pay his attorney’s fees because § 538.220.4 creates the presumption that, where the plaintiff has not made different arrangements with counsel, attorney’s fees “will be paid at the time the judgment becomes final.” The plaintiff also argued that the trial court erred by ordering future payments to be subject to the fixed interest rate of 1.48 percent pursuant to § 538.220.2.

Missouri Appellate Court Opinion

The Missouri Appellate Court rejected the defendants’ arguments on appeal. With regard to the plaintiff’s appeal, the Missouri Appellate Court held that the trial court did not err by applying the fixed interest rate in § 538.220.2 but the portion of the judgment pertaining to the periodic payment of future medical damages and to attorney’s fees must be reversed and remanded for entry of a new judgment because the trial court failed to adhere to § 538.220.2’s mandatory formula for calculating the amounts of periodic future damages payments and the trial court also failed to award the plaintiff a lump sum sufficient to pay his attorney’s fees as required by § 538.220.4, where the trial court was timely informed that the plaintiff had a contingency fee arrangement with his Missouri medical malpractice lawyer.

Source Lowe v. Mercy Clinic East Communities, No. ED106447.

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