State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, No. 69376

CourtMissouri Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtRENDLEN; BILLINGS; BLACKMAR; BLACKMAR
Citation745 S.W.2d 672
PartiesSTATE ex rel. William TRIMBLE, et al., Relators, v. The Hon. Brendan RYAN, Judge of the Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri, Respondent.
Decision Date17 February 1988
Docket NumberNo. 69376

Page 672

745 S.W.2d 672
STATE ex rel. William TRIMBLE, et al., Relators,
v.
The Hon. Brendan RYAN, Judge of the Circuit Court, City of
St. Louis, Missouri, Respondent.
No. 69376.
Supreme Court of Missouri,
En Banc.
Feb. 17, 1988.

Page 673

Stuart Oelbaum, St. Louis, for relators.

Ronald B. Wessel, Steven G. Schumaier, Clayton, for respondent.

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION

RENDLEN, Judge.

Relators seek to prohibit enforcement of respondent's order striking the ad damnum clause from their wrongful death petition and restricting their claim against defendant Bi-State Development Agency (Bi-State) to $100,000.00.

In their petition for damages, relators, the parents and wife of decedent James Trimble, alleged that on September 21, 1986, Trimble sustained fatal injuries when riding in a car that collided with a Bi-State bus operated by James McKenney, an employee of Bi-State. Further, they alleged the collision resulted from the bus driver's negligence when attempting a left turn into a Bi-State lot in the City of St. Louis, and prayed judgment against Bi-State and the bus driver, jointly and severally, in the amount of $3,000,000. Defendants responded with their combined motion to dismiss and strike portions of plaintiffs' petition, asserting inter alia that Bi-State's tort liability as a political subdivision of the State of Missouri is limited to the amount specified in sec. 537.610.2, RSMo 1986. The court denied defendants' motion to dismiss, but as noted above struck the ad damnum clause of plaintiffs' petition, who, after an unsuccessful effort for prohibition in the Court of Appeals--Eastern District, 1 were granted our provisional rule which is now quashed.

The applicability of sec. 537.610.2 to Bi-State is a question of first impression and one requiring examination of Missouri's sovereign immunity doctrine. Following the judicial abrogation of sovereign immunity by this Court in Jones v. State Highway Commission, 557 S.W.2d 225 (Mo. banc 1977), the legislature enacted secs. 537.600, et seq., RSMo 1978, reinstating "[s]uch sovereign or governmental tort immunity as existed at common law prior to September 12, 1977, except to the extent waived, abrogated or modified by statutes in effect prior to that date" and except for specified instances in which immunity was expressly waived by the new statute. "Since its reinstatement, sovereign immunity has been the rule for all public entities unless a certain prescribed exception is applicable." State ex rel. New Liberty Hospital District v. Pratt, 687 S.W.2d 184, 186 (Mo. banc 1985).

The first issue is whether Bi-State is a public entity which would have been immune from tort liability prior to Jones. Under the common law, "municipalities were not protected by sovereign immunity for torts arising from their proprietary functions but were protected from ...

Page 674

torts arising from their governmental functions. This distinction was not applicable to the state and its political subdivisions which were fully protected under the immunity doctrine for their tortious acts." McConnell v. St. Louis County, 655 S.W.2d 654, 656 (Mo.App.1983); see also Wood v. County of Jackson, 463 S.W.2d 834 (Mo.1971). The term "municipality" has a narrow meaning in the context of sovereign immunity, "because the words and structure of sec. 537.600 indicate the legislature's intent to reenact sovereign immunity as the rule with only limited exceptions[.]" State ex rel. St. Louis Housing Authority v. Gaertner, 695 S.W.2d 460, 463 (Mo. banc 1985). Indeed, such diverse entities as municipal housing authorities [ St. Louis Housing Authority, 695 S.W.2d at 463], hospital districts [ New Liberty Hospital District, 687 S.W.2d at 184], special road districts [ Lamar v. Bolivar Special Road District, 201 S.W. 890 (Mo.1918) ], sewer districts [ Page v. St. Louis Sewer District, 377 S.W.2d 348 (Mo.1964) ] and counties [ Wood, 463 S.W.2d at 835] have been held to be political subdivisions of the state rather than municipal corporations when sovereign immunity issues are involved.

The history and nature of Bi-State must be considered against this background. Bi-State was created in 1949 by a compact between the States of Missouri and Illinois contained in secs. 70.370 et seq., RSMo 1986. The district created encompasses the City of St. Louis and the Counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, and Jefferson in Missouri as well as the Illinois Counties of Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe. Section 70.370 provides that Bi-State "shall be a body corporate and politic" and specifies its powers, among which are: (1) planning, constructing, owning, operating and maintaining bridges, airports, and terminals; (2) making plans for the "coordination of streets, highways, parking areas, terminals, water supply and sewage and disposal works, recreational and conservation facilities and projects, land use pattern and other matters in which joint or coordinated action of the communities within the areas will be generally beneficial"; (3) charging and collecting fees; (4) issuing bonds; (5) receiving contributions and appropriations from local, state, and federal governments; (6) disbursing funds for its activities; (7) performing "all other necessary and incidental functions"; and (8) exercising "such additional powers as shall be conferred on it by the legislature of either state concurred in by the legislature of the other or by act of congress." There are ten Bi-State Commissioners, five of whom are from Missouri and appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. It is also worth noting that Bi-State was "assigned" to the Missouri Department of Transportation under sec. 226.007, RSMo 1987.

The term "public entity" is not defined in sec. 537.600 et seq.; however, an examination of sec. 70.370 and the nature and history of Bi-State leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is a public entity with substantial governmental authority and power, and that, like special road and sewer districts, it is not a municipality. To hold otherwise would distort the plain meaning of the term "public entity." 2 While not binding upon us, it is significant that Illinois courts have interpreted the term "public entity" as used in that state's sovereign immunity statute to include Bi-State. Grady v. Bi-State Development Agency, 151...

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26 practice notes
  • State v. Corpier, No. WD
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • June 5, 1990
    ...State v. Clemmons, 753 S.W.2d 901, 909 (Mo. banc), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 948, 109 S.Ct. 380, 102 L.Ed.2d 369 (1988); State v. Ward, 745 S.W.2d at 672. The evidence adduced by the state indicated that the defendant agreed to murder John Anderson for a price of ten thousand dollars. This Cou......
  • Wollard v. City of Kansas City, No. 74257
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 21, 1992
    ...the governmental/proprietary distinction only to municipal corporations and to no other public entity in State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, 745 S.W.2d 672, 674 (Mo. banc 1988). Since municipal corporations are the only public entities the legislature intended to subject to the governmental- Pag......
  • United States ex rel. Fields v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metro. Dist., No. 16-3783.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2017
    ...reinstated sovereign immunity in 1978 through the enactment 872 F.3d 878of Missouri Statute § 537.600. See State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, 745 S.W.2d 672, 673 (Mo. banc 1988). Section 537.600 reinstated " ‘[s]uch sovereign or governmental tort immunity as existed at common law prior to Septe......
  • United States ex rel. Fields v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metro. Dist., Case No. 4:14 CV 1321 RWS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • September 2, 2015
    ...a municipal corporation for the purpose of common law immunity. See Mo.Rev.Stat. § 537.600.4 (Supp.1990); State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, 745 S.W.2d 672, 674 (Mo.1988) (en banc). Similarly, an Illinois Appellate Court characterized Bi-State as a local public entity under the Illinois tort im......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • State v. Corpier, No. WD
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • June 5, 1990
    ...State v. Clemmons, 753 S.W.2d 901, 909 (Mo. banc), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 948, 109 S.Ct. 380, 102 L.Ed.2d 369 (1988); State v. Ward, 745 S.W.2d at 672. The evidence adduced by the state indicated that the defendant agreed to murder John Anderson for a price of ten thousand dollars. This Cou......
  • Wollard v. City of Kansas City, No. 74257
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 21, 1992
    ...the governmental/proprietary distinction only to municipal corporations and to no other public entity in State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, 745 S.W.2d 672, 674 (Mo. banc 1988). Since municipal corporations are the only public entities the legislature intended to subject to the governmental- Pag......
  • United States ex rel. Fields v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metro. Dist., No. 16-3783.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2017
    ...reinstated sovereign immunity in 1978 through the enactment 872 F.3d 878of Missouri Statute § 537.600. See State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, 745 S.W.2d 672, 673 (Mo. banc 1988). Section 537.600 reinstated " ‘[s]uch sovereign or governmental tort immunity as existed at common law prior to Septe......
  • United States ex rel. Fields v. Bi-State Dev. Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metro. Dist., Case No. 4:14 CV 1321 RWS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • September 2, 2015
    ...a municipal corporation for the purpose of common law immunity. See Mo.Rev.Stat. § 537.600.4 (Supp.1990); State ex rel. Trimble v. Ryan, 745 S.W.2d 672, 674 (Mo.1988) (en banc). Similarly, an Illinois Appellate Court characterized Bi-State as a local public entity under the Illinois tort im......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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