James Law Group Analyzes Recent Wrongful Death Dismissal Over Missouri One Recovery Rule
St. Peters, MO, (Law Firm Newswire) September 19, 2014 – The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of a Missouri family’s wrongful death claim on the grounds of Missouri’s “one recovery rule.”
Michael Thompson had been smoking for decades when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997. After his diagnosis, Thompson pursued and won a personal injury claim against several tobacco companies.
Then, in 2009, Thompson died of cancer, and his family brought a wrongful death lawsuit against a group of tobacco companies. But because Thompson had previously recovered compensation for harm caused by cigarette smoking, the federal district court dismissed the wrongful death case.
“In Missouri, a very old rule called the “one recovery rule” prevents plaintiffs from being compensated twice for the same harm,” explained Charlie James, a Missouri attorney who represents personal injury and wrongful death claims.
“This rule can put families in a difficult position. If a harm done today — like cigarette smoking, or a car accident — has caused an injury now, but is likely to result in even more hardship years into the future, when should the victim file suit?” James continued. “Competent personal injury attorneys in Missouri must take this rule into consideration when evaluating a case.”
Missouri’s one recovery rule was created in 1906, when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a family did not have a separate cause of action to recover damages for wrongful death after a streetcar accident killed the family’s father. In the Thompson case, the plaintiffs argued that law regarding wrongful death had evolved since 1906.
The federal district court and the Eighth Circuit disagreed, however, pointing to the original language of the 1906 rule, which states that for one wrongful act, only one recovery is possible.
On record, the case is Thompson v. Reynolds Tobacco Company Mfg USA, number 13-3005, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.