Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 14SL-CC02899
Honorable Joseph L. Walsh
K. Hoff, Judge
Schieffer ("Mr. Schieffer") appeals from the
judgment entered following a jury verdict in his favor in his
personal injury action on the basis of an inadequate award of
damages following improperly admitted evidence. We reverse.
and Procedural Background
November 17, 2011, Mr. Schieffer was involved in a motor
vehicle collision when an automobile driven by Thomas
DeCleene ("Mr. DeCleene") struck Mr.
Schieffer's vehicle from behind. Following the incident,
Mr. Schieffer experienced increasingly severe neck, shoulder,
and back pain which, despite physical therapy and other
treatment, has failed to improve.
August 26, 2014, Mr. Schieffer filed suit against Mr.
DeCleene asserting one count of negligence, and on January 2,
2015, Mr. Schieffer filed a first amended petition adding a
claim of loss of consortium by Dinah Schieffer ("Mrs.
Schieffer"), his wife. In both the original and first
amended petitions, Mr. Schieffer specifically pleaded for the
recovery of $28, 760.74 in medical expenses that he incurred
due to the incident.
on the morning of trial on November 7, 2016, Mr.
Schieffer's counsel sought leave from the trial court to
file a second amended petition which merely omitted the claim
for recovery of medical expenses. The trial court granted
leave to amend and thereafter considered whether deletion
of that claim foreclosed Mr. DeCleene's counsel from
presenting, as he planned to do, any evidence of Mr.
Schieffer's medical expenses at trial. While Mr.
Schieffer's counsel asserted that such evidence would be
beyond the scope of the pleadings since he abandoned the
claim for the recovery of medical expenses, the trial court
determined that such evidence would be admissible for two
reasons. First, the trial court explained that under Section
490.715.5 RSMo 2000,  as it was amended in 2005,  any party may
introduce evidence of the value of medical treatment rendered
to a party that was reasonable, necessary, and a proximate
result of the negligence of any party. Thus, the trial court
noted that so long as Mr. DeCleene's counsel explained to
the jury that the expenses were the reasonable, necessary,
and proximate result of Mr. DeCleene's negligence, it
would permit their entry. Second, the trial court determined
that the medical expenses were admissible because they
"may very well shed probative legal and factual evidence
that the jury could consider as to the extent and nature of
the damages given the amount of expenses." Following
this ruling, the parties commenced with trial.
trial, the jury heard testimony that despite Mr.
Schieffer's complaints of pain in his back and neck
following the November 2011 collision, his first complaints
of pain in those areas preceded that collision and followed a
separate automobile accident in 2000. Mr. Schieffer admitted
that following that 2000 accident, he suffered from a
herniated disk and spinal stenosis in his neck as well as
low-back pain. Likewise, Mr. Schieffer's first witness
and primary care physician, Dr. Glenn Brothers ("Dr.
Brothers"), testified via videotaped deposition that Mr.
Schieffer first informed him of back pain prior to the
November 2011 collision, on December 14, 2009. Dr. Brothers
noted that Mr. Schieffer reiterated that complaint on October
19, 2011, at which time Mr. Schieffer reported that the pain
was worsening. At the time, Dr. Brothers had concluded that
Mr. Schieffer's condition was the result of a
degenerative joint disease.
the November 2011 collision, Mr. Schieffer returned to Dr.
Brothers on December 6, 2011 complaining of back and neck
pain. Dr. Brothers explained that since that date, despite
multiple subsequent visits, physical and neurological exams,
a prescription of oxycodone, physical therapy, and a referral
to a pain clinic, Mr. Schieffer's condition continued to
worsen. Mr. Schieffer, Mrs. Schieffer, and their son Lee
Schieffer testified that due to his increasing pain, Mr.
Schieffer's abilities have become very limited such that
he now has trouble participating in hobbies such as camping
and home-building, he cannot complete household chores such
as lawn mowing without taking significantly more time to
recover, and his capacity to conduct his duties at work has
Mr. Schieffer's worsening condition, Dr. Brothers
testified that he believed the 2011 collision
"contributed to the progression of his cervical . . .
deterioration" and an "exacerbation of the symptoms
in his low[-]back." Following a lack of improvement in
Mr. Schieffer's condition in the years after the
collision, Dr. Brothers referred Mr. Schieffer to a
neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul Santiago ("Dr. Santiago"),
who met with Mr. Schieffer on April 5, 2013.
examining MRI scans of Mr. Schieffer's cervical spine and
lumbar spine, which showed that Mr. Schieffer suffered from
degenerative spine disease and cervical spondylosis in his
neck, Dr. Santiago began to discuss with Mr. Schieffer the
possibility of surgery to his cervical spine to stabilize his
condition. While initially, Mr. Schieffer sought to move
forward with the operation, scheduling it for December of
2013, he ultimately cancelled it, claiming that he was
concerned about the risks associated with it including
paralysis, bladder and bowel complications, and diminished
sexual function. Mr. Schieffer did not meet with Dr. Santiago
again until mid-2016 to reschedule the surgery for August
2016, which he also cancelled, repeating his prior concerns.
Mr. DeCleene's case in chief, his counsel sought to
differentiate Mr. Schieffer's neck injuries, which were
exacerbated by the November 2011 collision, from his low-back
injuries, which purportedly predated the 2011 collision and
followed the unrelated automobile accident in 2000. In doing
so, Mr. DeCleene's counsel first questioned Mr. Schieffer
about his treatment history following the collision, and Mr.
Schieffer agreed that he was charged for multiple treatment
sessions specifically targeting his low-back and that the
medical records for those sessions did not "say a word
about being sent for the neck." Thereafter, Mr.
DeCleene's counsel attempted to introduce evidence of Mr.
Schieffer's prior medical expenses to differentiate the
costs expended upon his back and neck. Mr. Schieffer's
counsel objected, stating that the medical bills were
"outside the scope of the pleadings" such that they
were "highly prejudicial and irrelevant and immaterial
in this action." The trial court, however, reiterated
his ruling that the bills were admissible pursuant to Section
490.715.5 so long as Mr. DeCleene's counsel admitted to
the jury that the expenses were the result of Mr.
DeCleene's negligence. Following this determination, Mr.
DeCleene's counsel stated to the jury that "the
amount necessary to fully satisfy [Mr. Schieffer's
medical] bills was $14, 743.75, " and that "these
[expenses] were reasonable, necessary, and a proximate result
of the negligence of [Mr. DeCleene]."
closing arguments, Mr. Schieffer's counsel suggested a
verdict of $300, 000, reflecting awards of "[$]125, 000
for past [pain and suffering], [$]125, 000 for future [pain
and suffering], and some amount for medical." Mr.
DeCleene's counsel, however, argued that Mr. Schieffer
had been receiving treatment for his "low[-]back the
month before the accident, but almost half of the treatment,
and that's why I did all this is to show you, that $15,
000 [in medical bills] wasn't for the neck. It was
fifty-fifty." Mr. Schieffer's counsel objected to
this statement, noting that, per the trial court's ruling
admitting the medical expenses evidence, "[h]e had to
specifically say [Mr. Schieffer's medical expenses were]
proximately caused based upon the statute. Now I think
he's equivocating on that." In response, the trial
court noted, simply, "The jury will be guided by its
recollection of the evidence." Mr. DeCleene's
counsel then asserted that, should the jury find that Mr.
Schieffer was entitled to damages, a more appropriate verdict
would be $25, 000, noting that "I had to put the
evidence on to tell you what all the bills were and then to
show you that a lot of it was for the back, " not his
neck. After deliberating, the jury returned a verdict of $25,
Mr. Schieffer filed a motion for a new trial. In relevant
part he argued, first, that the trial court erred in
admitting evidence of the amount he paid in medical expenses
since his second amended petition did not plead for such
expenses. Second, he argued that since admission of those
expenses was conditioned upon Mr. DeCleene's concession
that they resulted from his own negligence, he should not
have been permitted to assert to the jury that it could award