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Chapter 510

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  510.261.  Punitive damages, restrictions on award of — proper award, when — civil actions, initial pleading not to contain claim for punitive damage award. — 1.  Except as otherwise provided by statute, punitive damages shall not be awarded unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.

  2.  Punitive damages may only be recovered if the trier of fact awards more than nominal damages or if the claim or claims for which nominal damages are solely awarded invoke privacy rights, property rights, or rights protected by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the state of Missouri.

  3.  Punitive damages can properly be awarded against an employer or other principal because of an act by an agent if, but only if:

  (1)  The principal or a managerial agent of the principal authorized the doing and the manner of the act;

  (2)  The agent was unfit and the principal or a managerial agent of the principal was reckless in employing or retaining him or her;

  (3)  The agent was employed in a managerial capacity and was acting in the scope of employment; or

  (4)  The principal or a managerial agent of the principal ratified or approved the act.

  4.  When an employer admits liability for the actions of an agent in a claim for compensatory damages, the court shall grant limited discovery consisting only of employment records and documents or information related to the agent's qualifications.

  5.  No initial pleading in a civil action shall contain a claim for a punitive damage award.  Any later pleading containing a claim for a punitive damage award may be filed only with leave of the court.  A trial court may grant leave to file such a pleading only on written motion by the claimant, filed no later than one hundred twenty days prior to the final pretrial conference in the case or, if there is no scheduled pretrial conference, one hundred twenty days prior to the date set for trial, that is supported by affidavits, exhibits, or discovery materials establishing a reasonable basis for recovery of punitive damages.  Any party opposing leave may file affidavits, exhibits, or discovery materials demonstrating that the standards for a punitive damage award pursuant to this section have not been established.  If the trial court concludes, following its review of all materials submitted in connection with the motion, that based on the evidence to be admitted at trial a trier of fact could reasonably conclude, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the standards for a punitive damage award contained in this section have been met, the court shall grant leave to file the pleading seeking a punitive damage award.  The court shall rule on a motion for leave to file a pleading seeking punitive damages no later than forty-five days after a hearing on the motion or, if no hearing is held on the motion, after the party opposing the motion has filed its response to the motion.  The responsive pleading shall be limited to responding to the newly amended punitive damages claim.

  6.  The amount of punitive damages shall not be based, in whole or in part, on harm to nonparties.

  7.  No judgment that includes a punitive damage award shall be entered in any civil action in any court of this state, or in any court in which claims are asserted based on the constitution, statutes, or common law of this state, unless the requirements and procedures for a punitive damage award contained in this section and sections 510.263 and 537.675 are met.

  8.  Except to the extent that they are expressly inconsistent with this section, all common law limitations on punitive damages and all limitations on the recovery of punitive damages contained in other sections of the laws of this state remain in full force and effect.

  9.  As used in this section, the term "punitive damage award" means an award for punitive or exemplary damages or an award for aggravating circumstances.


(L. 2020 S.B. 591)


Applicability of statute changes for cases filed after August 28, 2020, 510.262

---- end of effective  28 Aug 2020 ----

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