Burrous v. American Airlines, Inc., 43332

Citation639 S.W.2d 263
Decision Date31 August 1982
Docket NumberNo. 43332,43332
PartiesWilliam BURROUS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant-Respondent.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

C. John Pleban, St. Louis, for plaintiff-appellant.

Parks G. Carpenter, St. Louis, for defendant-respondent.


We affirm judgment on the jury's verdict in favor of defendant in this trip-and-fall personal injury case.

Before discussing the trial errors claimed by the appealing plaintiff, we turn our attention to criticisms made of the briefs filed by the parties.

Defendant urges this court to penalize plaintiff in accordance with Rules 84.08, 84.19 and others on the grounds that plaintiff's points on appeal are without merit, unsupported by authority, and otherwise frivolous. We disagree. As indicated below, plaintiff made a good faith effort by raising important questions of trial procedure and practice, the answers to which were not always simple or obvious. See Means v. Sears, Roebuck and Company, 550 S.W.2d 780, 789 (Mo.banc 1977). Defendant also accuses plaintiff of violating the proscription of Rule 84.04(d) against long lists of citations in briefs. Plaintiff's briefs present us with a surfeit of cases. See Younge v. State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, 451 S.W.2d 346, 348 (Mo.1969). Defendant claims to have been "[e]ntertained, but not enlightened" by these cases. We do not share in defendant's amusement. Only some of the cases are, arguably, on point or illustrative of the principles for which they were cited. Verbose briefs tend to be more burdensome than helpful, however, and our refusal to impose sanctions in this case should not be viewed as approval. See Norman v. Ballentine, 627 S.W.2d 83, 85 (Mo.App.1981).

Plaintiff also draws our attention to what purports in defendant's brief to be a quotation from Blankenship v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 71 S.W.2d 723 (Mo.1934). Quotation marks are used and the quoted words indented; however, the quoted words, as such, do not appear in the body of the opinion. The purported quotation is apparently defendant's interpretation of what Blankenship holds. We are confident that this was a careless error and not an attempt to misstate the law, for an arguably similar statement appears on page 727 of the opinion. Use of the "quote," nevertheless, was potentially misleading and cannot be condoned. See Moore v. Rollmo Corporation, 575 S.W.2d 859, 861 (Mo.App.1978). We now proceed to the merits.

Plaintiff, in the course of his employment as an electrician in St. Louis, fell from a ladder on or about February 26, 1977, and sustained an injury to his lower back. He was hospitalized until the morning of March 2, 1977. That afternoon he left St. Louis on a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, where he intended to recuperate. He traveled via defendant's airline. Following a stopover in Dallas, Texas, he boarded one of defendant's jets for the final flight of his journey and occupied a window seat at the rear of the aircraft. Shortly after takeoff, he left his seat to use the restroom, fell on the way to the main aisle, and cut his head when he struck the galley wall across from his row of seats. That evening plaintiff was again in a hospital, this time in Phoenix.

According to plaintiff, he fell on the defendant's airplane because he tripped over a portable luggage carrier in his row. Plaintiff filed this action against defendant alleging that the luggage carrier came into his path as a result of defendant's negligence, causing him to fall and injure his head and neck and to reinjure his lower back. He sustained a vertical scar above the right eyebrow approximately 3/4 inches long, and suffered continuing headaches and back pain.

Plaintiff prayed for damages in the amount of $75,000.

Prior to the trial of this case, plaintiff also sought recompense through the Division of Workers' Compensation for the back injury sustained in the on-the-job fall of February 26, 1981. Plaintiff's primary allegation of error on this appeal concerns the admission of evidence of the settlement of the Workers' Compensation claim, which he argues violates the collateral source rule.

Evidence of the workers' compensation settlement was brought out by the defendant on three occasions, each time over the plaintiff's objection. 1 The first occasion was during cross-examination of plaintiff and the second was during cross-examination of plaintiff's medical witness. Defendant also used documents found in plaintiff's "workmen's compensation file" as part of its case.

In chambers, plaintiff strenuously objected to any use of that file and also urged in the alternative that no dollar amounts be mentioned. The judge ruled that defendant could introduce evidence of the fact of the workers' compensation settlement without revealing the amount of money received by plaintiff. This is what was done.

Defendant read to the jury a portion of a report from plaintiff's doctor indicating that as a result of the fall at work plaintiff was in constant pain, could not work and was, to a degree, permanently disabled. Defendant then informed the jury, by reading from the transcript of the compromise settlement, that plaintiff had agreed his fall from the ladder caused a ten percent loss of use of the body as a whole. The loss was referable to the low back. The compromise provided that he would accept a lump sum settlement, a portion of which was to be paid from the second injury fund.

The collateral source rule is recognized in Missouri, so that a tortfeasor is not permitted to mitigate or reduce damages against him by proving a plaintiff has received indemnity or compensation for an injury or loss from some other source, such as insurance, Blessing v. Boy Scouts of America, 608 S.W.2d 484, 488 (Mo.App.1980), or workers' compensation benefits, Sampson v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 560 S.W.2d 573, 584 (Mo.banc 1978). An alleged tortfeasor may, however, introduce evidence to show that he did not cause the plaintiff's injury, but that the injury and damages sued for were pre-existing or caused by some unrelated event. Such evidence may be prior claims by the plaintiff against other tortfeasors for similar injuries, Cammarata v. Payton, 316 S.W.2d 474, 478 (Mo.1958), or a settlement of such a claim as compensation for earlier injuries, Allen v. Andrews, 599 S.W.2d 262, 265 (Mo.App.1980). Admission of such evidence is predicated on some conflict or inconsistency between the plaintiff's claim or theory of causation in his suit against the defendant and his earlier claims or admissions. 2 If a plaintiff asserts that a defendant is responsible for an injury to a particular part of his body, the defendant is entitled to show that on another occasion the plaintiff attributed injury to the same part of his body to a different person or event. Eickmann v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 363 Mo. 651, 253 S.W.2d 122, 125 (1952). Such evidence is relevant to the central issue of causation and is not "collateral" to plaintiff's cause of action against the defendant.

In the instant case, plaintiff alleged he reinjured his back in his fall on the airplane and attempted to prove damages, including medical expenses, loss of wages and pain and suffering. The collateral source rule does not prevent the defendant from resisting these efforts with otherwise admissible descriptions of the plaintiff's health which attributed the same type of injury and the same damages, in whole or part, to a fall which occurred four days before plaintiff boarded defendant's jet. Eickmann v. St. Louis...

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10 cases
  • Gamble v. Browning
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • December 2, 2008
    ...party may challenge rulings of the trial court in an effort to sustain a judgment in their favor. Burrous v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 639 S.W.2d 263, 267 n. 3 (Mo.App. E.D.1982). They argue this may include the merits underlying a denied motion for summary judgment, citing State ex rel. Liberty ......
  • Steenrod v. Klipsch Hauling Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • April 10, 1990
    ...(Mo.App.1984). On review, we accord the trial court broad discretion in ruling on the use of depositions. Burrous v. American Airlines, Inc., 639 S.W.2d 263, 267[8-10] (Mo.App.1982). Once one party reads a portion of a deposition, it is a general rule that the opposing party may read some o......
  • Calvin v. Jewish Hosp. of St. Louis, 52838
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • February 16, 1988
    ...The trial court denied this offer, stating it should wait until defendant's case. This ruling was erroneous. Burrous v. American Airlines, Inc., 639 S.W.2d 263, 267 (Mo.App.1982). "[T]he introduction of a deposition or a part thereof for any purpose other than that of contradicting or impea......
  • Nugent v. Owens Corning Fiberglas, Inc.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • June 4, 1996
    ...party's following it up with testimony of the same character tending to explain his side of the controversy." In Burrous v. American Airlines, Inc., 639 S.W.2d 263 (Mo.App.1982)[8-10] we stated: "It is the general rule that when one party reads a portion of a deposition the opposition may r......
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