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Tort Law

R. Max Humphreys, Esquire

Similar injuries from separate accidents does not mandate defendant in first accident receiving credit for settlement of claims in second accident.  Stevenson v. Aquila, No. 72214 (Mo. App. W.D., December 21, 2010), Martin, J.
Plaintiff suffered injuries in a rear-end accident with Defendant in 2000, for which she received medical treatment for neck injuries, including numbness in the left arm, head, and pain in the neck and headaches.  In 2003, she was involved in another rear-end accident and sought medical treatment for head and neck pain and numbness in her left arm.  An MRI taken thereafter showed she had a herniated disk but some of the medical experts gave their opinion that the herniated disk occurred in the 2000 accident.  She filed suit in both accidents and settled her claims for the second accident.  The first accident claim went to trial and although she requested a judgment of $600,000.00, she was awarded only $65,000.00.  She had introduced evidence of medical bills of $60,000.00.  Defendant requested the court to allow them credit for the amount she received from Defendants in the second accident under Section 537.060.  The court of appeals determined that statute applied to joint tortfeasors where the injuries occurred under the same factual situation, unless the two injuries were so close in time that it was impossible to separate those injuries which were not the case here.  The court found that there was no common liability among the two sets of Defendant in this fact situation and denied credit. 

Keith A. Cutler, Esquire 

Deer can be considered "domestic animals."  Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch, LLC v. Lange, et al., No. 94712 (Mo. App. E.D., November 23, 2010), Richter, J.
Three of Defendants' dogs entered onto Plaintiff's property and killed twenty-one of Plaintiff's deer.  The deer were kept in pens, had never lived in the wild, were hand-fed, and were being raised for their ability to produce male deer with very large antlers.  Plaintiff sued Defendants under Section 273.020, RSMo., which places liability on a dog owner when an owner's dog kills or maims a domestic animal.  Defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that deer are not "domestic animals."  The trial court granted summary judgment, and Plaintiff appealed.
Held: Reversed and remanded.   The word "domestic" is not defined in the applicable statute, so the court of appeals turned to the dictionary to ascertain the plain meaning of the word.  As it pertained to animals, the term "domestic" was defined as "living in or near the habitation of man; domesticated; tame; as domestic animals."  "Domestic animal" was defined as "any of various animals, as the horse, ox, or sheep, which have been domesticated by man so as to live and breed in a tame condition."    Based on these plain-meaning definitions, the court of appeals determined that the deer that were killed were "domestic animals."  Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment, and the case was remanded.

The Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin, 11-Feb