United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division
ORDER (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AWARD
OF STATUTORY PREJUDGMENT AND POSTJUDGMENT INTEREST, AND (2)
AWARDING PLAINTIFF PREJUDGMENT AND POSTJUDGMENT
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
February 6, 2019, the jury returned a verdict in favor of
Plaintiff in the amount of $416, 714.00. Doc. #140. On
February 12, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for award of
statutory prejudgment and postjudgment interest. Doc. #141.
For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion is
argues it is entitled to prejudgment interest at nine percent
per annum from the premium due date, March 27, 2014. Docs.
#141, 142. State law governs the issue of prejudgment
interest in diversity actions. See Reliance Ins. Co. v.
Chitwood, 433 F.3d 660, 665-66 (8th Cir. 2006).
“Creditors shall be allowed to receive interest at the
rate of nine percent per annum, when no other rate is agreed
upon, for all moneys after they become due and payable, on
written contracts…after they become due and demand of
payment is made….” Mo. Rev. Stat. §
408.020. Section 408.020 applies to insurance
policies. Schultz v. Queen Ins. Co., 399 S.W.2d 230,
236 (Mo.Ct.App. 1965). “Interest has traditionally been
used to compensate for the use or loss of use of money to
which a person is entitled.” Travelers Prop. Cas.
Ins. Co. of Am. v. Nat'l Union Ins. Co. of
Pittsburgh, 735 F.3d 993, 1004-05 (8th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Catron v. Columbia Mut. Ins. Co., 723
S.W.2d 5, 7 (Mo. banc 1987)). Missouri courts award
prejudgment interest if three elements are satisfied: (1) the
expenses must be due and payable; (2) the claim must be
liquidated or the amount of the claim must be reasonably
ascertainable; and (3) the obligee must make a demand on the
obligor for the amount due. Barkley, Inc. v. Gabriel
Bros., Inc., 829 F.3d 1030, 1039 (8th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Jablonski v. Barton Mut. Ins. Co., 291
S.W.3d 345, 350 (Mo.Ct.App. 2010)).
Due and Payable
interest can only be awarded on “moneys after they
become due and payable.” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 408.020.
Defendant argues no moneys were “due” under the
terms of the insurance policy until resolution of the
parties' disputes regarding interpretation and
application of the residual market rules. Defendant claims it
had the right to dispute Plaintiff's bill and had no
obligation to pay disputed amounts.
a breach of a contract claim, interest ordinarily runs from
the date of the breach or the time when payment was due under
the contract.” Travelers Commercial Cas. Co. v.
Vac-It-All Servs., Inc., 451 S.W.3d 301, 313 (Mo.Ct.App.
2014) (citation omitted). Here, the jury found Defendant
breached the insurance contract by failing to pay the
additional premium. The parties agree Plaintiff demanded the
additional premium following the final audit by way of
Plaintiff's March 7, 2014 invoice, which demanded
Defendant pay the additional premium by March 27, 2014. Doc.
#141-1. Therefore, the additional premium became due and
payable on March 27, 2014.
Liquidated or Reasonably Ascertainable
award of prejudgment interest, there must be a liquidated
claim or the amount of the claim must be reasonably
ascertainable. McKinney v. State Farm Mut. Ins., 123
S.W.3d 242, 250 (Mo.Ct.App. 2003). “A liquidated claim
is one which is fixed and determined or readily ascertainable
by computation or a recognized standard.” Id.
(quoting Schnucks Carrollton Corp. v. Bridgeton Health
& Fitness, Inc., 884 S.W.2d 733, 740 (Mo.Ct.App.
1994)). The denial of prejudgment interest for unliquidated
claims “is based, generally, on the idea that where the
person liable does not know the amount he owes he should not
be considered in default because of failure to pay.”
Fohn v. Title Ins. Corp. of St. Louis, 529 S.W.2d 1,
5 (Mo. banc 1975). Missouri courts have held damages are not
liquidated when the method used to calculate damages was
genuinely disputed. See Fohn, 529 S.W.2d at 4, 5;
see also Ritter Landscaping, Inc. v. Meeks, 950
S.W.2d 495, 497 (Mo.Ct.App. 1997). Missouri courts have also
found damages to be unliquidated where the resolution of a
claim or defense is necessary before damages can be
calculated. See Children Int'l v. Ammon Painting
Co., 215 S.W.3d 194, 205 (Mo.Ct.App. 2006).
Missouri courts have granted prejudgment interest, despite a
dispute over the measure of damages, where the alternative
measures offered by the defendant were not supported by
evidence at trial. McNeil v. City of Kan. City, 459
S.W.3d 509, 517 (Mo.Ct.App. 2015) (affirming the decision to
grant prejudgment interest when the amount of damages was
disputed but the parties agreed on the proper method for
calculating damages); Comens v. SSM St. Charles Clinic
Med. Grp., Inc., 335 S.W.3d 76, 81-82 (Mo.Ct.App. 2011)
(affirming the decision to grant prejudgment interest because
the defendant's suggested alternative measures to
calculate damages were not supported by evidence);
Watters v. Travel Guard Int'l, 136 S.W.3d 100,
104-05, 111 (Mo.Ct.App. 2004) (finding prejudgment interest
was properly granted where the parties disputed liability but
the amount of damages was “readily determinable and
ascertainable by simple computation”).
argues the claim was unliquidated because it disputed
Plaintiff's claim and method of calculating the premium.
According to Defendant, resolution of multiple issues
regarding Missouri law as well as interpretation and
application of the residual market rules was necessary before
liability or damages could be ascertained. Defendant claims
that through the time of trial, it did not know the amount it
owed, if anything. Plaintiff opposes this argument, claiming
its March 7, 2014 invoice provided the exact amount Defendant
mere fact that a party denies liability or defends a claim
against [it], or even the existence of a bona fide dispute as
to the amount of the indebtedness, does not preclude recovery
of interest.” Comens, 335 S.W.3d at 82
(citations omitted). “To hold otherwise would allow the
opposing party to accrue pecuniary benefit unfairly by the
simple expedient of producing conflicting estimates of
value.” Id. (citations omitted). Further,
“[a]n exact calculation of damages need not be
presented in order for the claim to be considered
liquidated.” Macheca Transp. Co. v. Philadelphia
Indem. Ins. Co., 737 F.3d 1188, 1197 (8th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Comens, 335 S.W.3d at 82). “Damages
may still be ascertainable, even in the face of a dispute
over monetary value or the parties' experts compute
different estimates of the loss.” Id. (quoting
Comens, 335 S.W.3d at 82).
Defendant did not provide evidence supporting a different
calculation of the loss. At trial, both parties agreed the
proper measure of damages was the number of payroll dollars
multiplied by the applicable rate, which is determined by the
corresponding classification code. From March 2014 through
the jury's verdict in February 2019, Plaintiff
consistently maintained how much additional premium Defendant
owed, and the evidence presented at trial supported
Plaintiff's calculation. Under the circumstances, the
amount of premium Defendant owed was readily ascertainable by
recognized standards, and therefore, Plaintiff has satisfied
the second element for an award of prejudgment interest.
See Jablonski, 291 S.W.3d at 350-51.