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This Week in the Missouri Supreme Court: Week of September 11


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Supreme Court issued hand down opinions on Tuesday regarding five cases.

In Linda Mantia v. Missouri Department of Transportation and Treasurer of Missouri as Custodian of the Second Injury Fund, Mantia attempted to seek worker’s compensation for mental injuries and disability that she suffered directing traffic and providing assistance for car crashes. Initially, the judge denied her claim saying that she did not prove that she suffered extraordinary and unusual work-related stress to merit a claim. A labor and industrial relations commission, which reviewed the case, reversed the judge’s decision. The Department of Transportation appealed and was sent to the Supreme Court.

The court found that since the commission failed to determine if the work environment and experiences that caused Mantia’s stress and injuries would cause similar ones in a reasonable highway worker. In this way, both the commission and the court could find if her claims can be measured by “objective standards and actual events.” The court ruled that the case was to be sent back to the labor and industrial relations commission for further review.

In Mary Hanson and David Hanson v. Margaret Carrol and Bridget Carrol, Margaret Carrol and her sister Bridget were appointed to be the legal guardians of her great-grandson, despite the dissension from Mary and David Hanson, the child’s grandparents. Since the decision for the Carrol sisters to be legal guardians, the Hanson’s have filed numerous actions trying to overturn their guardianship or seeking visitation and custody of their grandchild. In March, the Hansons filed another petition to seek visitation and custody which the court dismissed the case with prejudice, preventing them from refilling it.

The Hansons appealed the decision and was taken to the Missouri Supreme Court. The court voted unanimously to find that the Hansons did not have a case to take custody of their grandchild because they did not follow legal procedure when they failed to provide any facts or cite any laws. Additionally, the child already has legal guardians in the Carrols, who can determine who is allowed to visit the child.

In Vivian R. Hall v. State of Missouri, when Hall pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and sentenced her to seven years in prison, however because of a discrepancy between when she was taken to prison and when she filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief. If she was taken to jail before March 2013, then the court can consider her motion, however, if she was taken to jail after, the court cannot. Because she could not prove to the circuit court when her motion was filed, the Supreme Court sent back her appeal.

In Miasia Barron, et al., and Maddison Schmidt, by Next Friends, Garry Schmidt and Tammy Schmidt v. Abbott Laboratories Inc., when Tammy Schmidt, a Minnesota resident, was pregnant with her daughter, Maddison, she took the anti-epileptic drug Depakote, produced by Abbott Laboratories in 2003. When her daughter was born with birth defects, she joined with plaintiffs from around the country, including some from St. Louis, Missouri, to file a personal injury case against Abbott.

Abbott claims the cases were improperly joined and the case was transferred to St. Louis. The circuit court determined that instead of a joint trial, they should nominate individual plaintiffs for individual trials. Schmidt was awarded $15 million for compensatory damages and $23 million for punitive damages under Minnesota law. The circuit court overruled Abbott’s attempts for a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which they then appealed and took it to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Missouri Supreme Court affirms the ruling from the lower court saying even though the circuit court should not have transferred the trail to St. Louis and also should not have separated the plaintiffs’ claims, the company had not shown it was prejudiced.

In Paul Gittemeier v. State of Missouri, when Gittemier was charged for DUI and trespassing on his neighbor’s lawn with his all-terrain vehicle (ATV), he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, as a chronic offender.  In October 2013, he filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief, saying that his attorney acting as a public defender should have inquired whether his ATV was “a motor vehicle” and should not be charged with driving while intoxicated. In January 2014, Gittemier was represented by a private attorney and asked for an extension and amended his motion for post-conviction relief. When the circuit court denied his relief in March, Gittemier appealed and took it to the Missouri Supreme Court.

When Gittemier was before the Supreme Court, he could not prove that his public defender did not challenge whether his ATV was a motor vehicle and dropped the case. The court ruled that the amended motion was filed in a timely manner so none of its claims are considered. The court also found that the circuit court should have not given the extension to Gittemier. The Supreme Court decided that he was not denied relief.

Finally, the court also disciplined Karl Hinkebein for violating the courts rules for diligence and communication. Hinkebein’s license will be suspended and he will be put on probation.