In 2005, Missouri passed sweeping tort reform. One of the changes came to the Missouri Wrongful Death statute. Section 537.090 was amended in 2005 to set a rebuttable presumption of the value of the death of a minor child to his or her parents in a wrongful death action filed by the parents. It has always been difficult to place a monetary value on the death of a child, as the child most likely had no income upon which a jury could base any economic loss. In an effort to address the issue, the legislature amended the statute to say that there is a rebuttable presumption (which means that the court presumes, unless proven otherwise) that the value of the annual economic loss because of the death shall be calculated based upon the annual income of the deceased child's parent, if only one parent works. If both parents work, then the loss is to be calculated based upon the average of both parents' income.
As a St. Louis, Missouri Wrongful Death attorney, this seems very unfair and subject to considerable challege in the appeals courts. In essence, this statute basically assumes that a doctor's child would have earned a doctor's income if he had lived, while the child of a single mother working a minimum wage job would have never earned more than minimum wage if he had lived. Or that a rich person's child is worth more than a poor person's child. I would anticipate that this statute will be challenged in the Missouri Court of Appealsin the not-so-distant future.
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