Missouri statutes define wrongful death lawsuits. RSMo § 537.080 sets forth who can bring a wrongful death suit. First, it can be brought by the spouse, children, or surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children (natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate) or by the parents of the deceased (natural or adoptive). If there is not a person in this class of individuals, then a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by the deceased’s brother or sister or their descendants who can establish entitlement to the potential damages awarded by a jury, discussed below. If there is not a person in either of those classes, a “plaintiff ad litem” can be appointed by the Court.
Jurors can award damages for funeral expenses and the reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training and support for those bringing the lawsuit who have lost these because of the death. RSMo § 537.090. Jurors can also award the damages the deceased suffered between injury and death as well as those the deceased might have recovered had the death not occurred.
However, Missouri statute precludes a jury awarding damages for grief and bereavement by reason of the death. In addition, if the deceased was not employed full time and was 50% or more responsible for care of a minor or disabled person, there is a rebuttable presumption that the value of care provided is equal to 110% of the state average weekly wage defined by statute. This also applies to the death of someone over 65 years of age. If the deceased was under 18 years old, there is a rebuttable presumption that the annual pecuniary losses will be calculated based on the annual income of the deceased’s parents, (average of two parent incomes; if one parent, that number is used).
Wrongful death lawsuits can be complicated. Pleban & Petruska will help guide you through all the issues surrounding your loss. Call us at 314.645.6666 or email us. Remember, with statute of limitations and potential loss of evidence, time is typically of the essence.