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State ex rel. Williams v. Munton

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

October 31, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. LAURA WILLIAMS, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE DAVID R. MUNTON, TWENTY-EIGHTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT, BARTON COUNTY, MISSOURI, Respondent.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION/MANDAMUS

         PRELIMINARY WRIT OF PROHIBITION MADE PERMANENT

          Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer, P.J. - Opinion Author

         This petition for a writ of prohibition/mandamus arises in a suit by Laura Williams ("Plaintiff) against Cannonball Engineering, LLC ("Defendant Cannonball") and Carol Eldred ("Defendant Eldred") for the wrongful death of Jacob Dale Williams ("Decedent"). The issue in dispute is whether the trial court erred in granting Defendant Cannonball's motion to compel authorizations for Decedent's "prescription medications records" for the almost six-year period before his death.

         In Plaintiffs petition for wrongful death filed in May 2016, Plaintiff alleged the following facts. Plaintiff and Decedent were married, and Decedent "owned and operated" "an auto repair shop." Defendant Eldred asked Decedent to repair the dump/bale bed on Defendant Eldred's truck. The dump/bale bed was "designed, manufactured, marketed and installed" by Defendant Cannonball. On December 1, 2015, Decedent was killed while working on the dump/bale bed on Defendant Eldred's truck. While the bed was "partially raised, " Decedent "leaned in underneath" the bed, "touched the interlock switch, " and was killed when the bed fell on him.

         Count I of the petition for wrongful death pled a cause of action against Defendant Cannonball for strict products liability alleging in part that the bed (1) "was used in a manner reasonably anticipated and expected by Defendant Cannonball, " and (2) "was defective and unreasonably dangerous." Plaintiff further pled that "[a]s a direct and proximate result" of the "unreasonably dangerous conditions" of the bed, the bed fell on Decedent causing Decedent "great physical pain and anguish" and death. Plaintiff further claimed that, as a direct and proximate result of Decedent's death, she "has suffered, and will in the future suffer, pecuniary loss and, in addition, has been and will in the future be deprived of decedent'[s] services, support, companionship, comfort, maintenance, instruction, guidance, counsel, love and affection."

         Count II of the petition for wrongful death pled a cause of action against Defendant Cannonball for negligent failure to warn additionally alleging in part that Defendant Cannonball (1) knew or should have known that the bed "was in an unreasonably dangerous condition, " (2) "had no reason to believe . . . [D]ecedent would realize the . . . bed was in an unreasonably dangerous condition, " and (3) negligently "failed to adequately warn of such dangerous condition(s)." For damages under this theory, Plaintiff claimed the same causation and damages claimed in Count I.

         Count III of the petition for wrongful death pled a cause of action against Defendant Cannonball for "strict liability -- failure to warn" additionally alleging in part that the bed (1) was "unreasonably dangerous when put to its reasonably anticipated use, " and (2) "was used exclusively for the farming applications for which it was designed." For damages under this theory, Plaintiff claimed the same causation and damages claimed in Count I.

         Count IV of the petition for wrongful death pled a cause of action against Defendant Cannonball for negligence additionally alleging in part that "Defendant Cannonball was negligent in failing to use ordinary care in the design, manufacture, assembly, inspection, marketing and/or sale" of the bed. For damages under this theory, Plaintiff claimed that Decedent died "[a]s a direct and proximate result" of Defendant Cannonball's negligence, and claimed the same damages claimed in Count I.

         Count V of the petition for wrongful death pled a cause of action against Defendant Eldred for negligence alleging that Defendant Eldred was negligent in multiple ways relating to the use and maintenance of the bed, and the presentation of the bed for repair. For damages under this theory, Plaintiff claimed that Decedent died "[a]s a direct and proximate result" of Defendant Eldred's negligence, and claimed the same damages claimed in Count I.[1]

         At the county coroner's request, two postmortem blood samples collected from Decedent at 1:00 p.m., on the date of his death, were tested and found to contain reportable amounts of (1) dihydrocodeine/hydrocodol, (2) hydrocodone, and (3) hydromorphone. These test results were contained in a toxicology report issued December 10, 2015.

         After the suit for Decedent's wrongful death commenced, Defendant Cannonball requested that Plaintiff "produce a valid, executed authorization(s) for [Decedent's] prescription medications records for the years 2010 to present." Plaintiff objected to this request because the request is "excessively broad, vague, ambiguous, burdensome and harassing, is not limited to the scope of plaintiff's pleadings, is not properly limited in time and/or subject matter, and seeks information not relevant to the instant case, nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Further, said request violates the decedent's physician/patient privilege."

         Following Defendant Cannonball's filing of a motion to compel compliance with its request, a hearing on the motion, and the trial court's consideration of written argument, the trial court granted Defendant Cannonball's motion to compel compliance with the request in a written order filed May 22, 2017. Plaintiff subsequently initiated this writ proceeding requesting that we issue a writ of prohibition or mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order granting Defendant Cannonball's motion to compel compliance with the request. We issued a preliminary writ prohibiting the trial court from enforcing the challenged order or otherwise compelling Plaintiff to provide the requested authorizations, and now make that preliminary writ permanent.

         Standard ...


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