Myers v. City of West Plains – Missouri Appellate Court Affirms Child Injury Verdict

Myers v. City of West Plains – Missouri Appellate Court Affirms Child Injury Verdict

A $425,000 injury verdict awarded to an 11-year-old boy who suffered severe knee injury at a public park in 2011 has been affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District.

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Defendant City of West Plains argued on appeal in Myers v. City of West Plains that trial court abused its discretion in instructing jurors not to consider the role the child’s mother’s supervision (or lack thereof) played in the incident. However, appellate court found there had been no error.

Trial court excluded the issue of supervision on the grounds the supervision issue had become a “stray issue,” which might mislead the jury in its consideration of a case by raising a false issue. In fact, people routinely allowed their children to go unsupervised to this particular park.

This was particularly in light of the fact that several jurors had indicated during voir dire they would lean toward a verdict favoring the city if they knew a parent hadn’t properly supervised the child.

However, the alleged lack of supervision did not absolve the city of taking reasonable steps to ensure the property was safe, particularly given that it was a public property and young children were known to play there regularly, sometimes unsupervised.

The city argued the issue of supervision should not have been withdrawn from consideration. Appellate court disagreed.

According to court records, the then-fourth-grader was playing in a park with his older sister. As he was walking across the park to return a puppy to his sister that had slipped form its leash, the boy tripped over some large, exposed tree roots. He landed on his knees in an effort to protect the puppy. Where he landed, however, there was broken glass scattered about the ground.

Our St. Louis injury lawyers understand boy sustained severe injuries to his knees, which were characterized as resulting in lifelong functional limitations. He has already had to undergo three surgeries. He will likely have to wear a leg brace the rest of his life, and has difficulty sitting, standing, walking, climbing, squatting and kneeling.

Seven witnesses testified for plaintiffs that the broken glass in that particular area had been on the ground for at least six weeks. Additionally, photographs of the scene seemed to indicate the glass had been there a long time, as large chunks were embedded into the ground. Evidence was also presented indicating the area near the tree had been recently mowed, meaning park maintenance workers would have had the opportunity to notice the glass and take action.

City officials, meanwhile, testified there was a daily trash pickup at the park and there were weekly and monthly inspections. They agreed it would have been their duty to look for such things, however, they denied ever noticing such a hazard. When shown a photo of the chunks, one worker said a danger of that size could have been noticed and addressed if it was on the property longer than a month.

The appellate court weighed the city’s claim that trial court’s removal of the supervision issue from consideration was not arbitrary or unreasonable.

Additional Resources:
Myers v. City of West Plains, Jan. 27, 2015, Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District Division Two

More Blog Entries:
Driver Distraction Danger in Missouri Compounded by Holiday Traffic, Dec. 10, 2014, St. Louis Injury Lawyer Blog

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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