Gray Ritter Graham for decades has been instrumental in developing precedent beneficial to those who have been harmed.
Precedent beneficial to farmers
In In re: Syngenta AG MIR 162, Gray Ritter Graham fought for US corn farmers who were victimized by a large international company’s negligence in commercializing a new genetically modified corn seed that was approved in the US but not in China, one of our largest export markets. The company had been warned by US grain companies not to commercialize that GM corn seed in the US until it had been approved in China because corn harvested from that seed could not be segregated from other US corn, and it would inevitably end up in export markets. Despite these warnings, the company went forward with commercialization in the U.S. As predicted, the new GM corn was detected by China in incoming corn shipments from the US, which led to a loss of the Chinese market, and a devastating decrease in the price US corn farmers received for their product. Gray Ritter Graham led the litigation from beginning to end, and with co-counsel successfully tried a three-week trial that resulted in a $217.7 million verdict. That verdict led directly to at $1.51 billion settlement for US corn farmers.
In In re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, Gray Ritter Graham represented US rice farmers who were victimized by a large international company’s negligence in allowing unapproved, experimental genetically modified rice to escape and contaminate the US rice supply. That contamination led to the loss of the European Market, and a devastating decrease in the price US rice farmers received for their rice. Gray Ritter Graham led the precedent-setting litigation from beginning to end, and successfully with co-counsel, tried three month-long trials to verdict. These verdicts resulted in a $750 million settlement for US rice farmers. Settlements for other injured parties increased the total amount paid in settlement to over $1 billion.
In In re: Dicamba Herbicides Litigation, Gray Ritter Graham fought for U.S. soybean farmers and others who were damaged by off-target movement of dicamba herbicide. Gray Ritter Graham led this multidistrict litigation and also led the negotiation that resulted in a $400 million settlement. That settlement was named the #1 settlement in Missouri for 2020 by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
Precedent beneficial to patients in medical malpractice cases
In Dodson v. Mercy Health, Gray Ritter Graham obtained a trial verdict of over $10.8 million in a wrongful death case. Because it was based on medical malpractice, however, it was subject to a significant reduction from a legislatively – imposed damage “cap.” Gray Ritter Graham challenge the cap as an unconstitutional infringement on the Dodson family’s right to trial by jury. This right has been in the Missouri Constitution since the dawn of statehood. Taking the appeal all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, GRG helped to establish important precedent on trial procedure, preservation of constitutional arguments, and constitutional rights to jury trial and equal protection under the law.
In Spradling v. SSM Health Care St. Louis, a medical malpractice case, GRG successfully urged the Missouri Supreme Court to find that an expert witness was fully qualified to certify the case as recognized by section 538.225 RSMo. Missouri law requires a special affidavit to be filed demonstrating that a medical negligence case has merit. One particular challenge sometimes raised to a healthcare affidavit is to dispute the healthcare expert’s knowledge of the medical procedure at issue. In Spradling, a defendant neurosurgeon was successful in convincing the trial court to dismiss the malpractice lawsuit on the ground that the plaintiffs’ healthcare affidavit relied on the opinion of an interventional radiologist, and therefore the affidavit was defective because the two physicians practiced in different specialties. But on appeal the Missouri Supreme Court reversed, noting that the interventional radiologist had performed or assisted in more than 3,000 spinal surgeries of the same type as involved in the lawsuit against the neurosurgeon, and had co-authored multiple books and publications regarding the procedure at issue. Therefore, in a case interpreting the affidavit requirement for the first time, the Court agreed with GRG that a certifying physician need not be in the exact same specialty as the health care provider defendant. The Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal allowing GRG’s client to proceed with her lawsuit.
In Mickels v. Danrad, GRG argued a case in the Missouri Supreme Court where it was held, as a matter of first impression, that a wrongful death action could be brought when the alleged medical negligence accelerated a death from a terminal illness. Mr. Mickels discovered he had an aggressive brain tumor and, despite surgery, he died four months later. The lawsuit stemmed from a radiologist’s alleged failure to notice the tumor when reviewing a brain scan several months prior to the diagnosis. If the tumor had been diagnosed at the time of the MRI, Mr. Mickels would have likely survived an additional six months. Because the misinterpretation of the scan did not cause Mr. Mickels’ death, the Court held that a wrongful death claim was inappropriate. The Court went on to hold that because Mr. Mickels might have survived a little longer had the tumor been caught earlier, his personal representative could bring a negligence action for that lost time.
In Kivland v. Columbia Orthopedic Group, GRG’s appeal led to the Supreme Court clarifying standards for wrongful death claims in Missouri. The case concerned a claim of medical malpractice. Gerald Kivland brought suit alleging that his severe pain and paralysis were the result of a surgery he underwent to correct a curvature of his spine. After the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Kivland committed suicide when he could no longer stand the pain he was suffering. His widow and daughter amended the suit to include wrongful death. The case went up to the Missouri Supreme Court, where the Court rejected the prior “irresistible impulse test” and held that where death is by suicide, the causation standard is the same as in any wrongful death case, i.e., whether the death was “a direct result” of defendant’s negligence.
GRG successfully sued to stop over-billing of patients without insurance
In Quinn v. BJC, Gray Ritter Graham litigated a class action that led to a landmark settlement for uninsured patients of the largest healthcare system in Missouri. The settlement stopped that system’s practice of charging uninsured patients twice or three times more than it charged insured patients for the identical procedure or service, and also required BJC to forgive inflated previous charges to uninsured patients. At least 385,000 people were directly benefitted by the settlement. Bill forgiveness alone was estimated to total more than $167 million, and bills sent to uninsured patients after the settlement were estimated to be reduced by over $100 million. The settlement served as a model to other healthcare systems striving to treat their uninsured patients fairly.
Combatting Fraud on Missouri Consumers
In Plubel v. Merck, Gray Ritter Graham litigated a class action lawsuit against a major pharmaceutical company that helped clarify Missouri consumer protection law to better protect Missouri purchasers of misrepresented drugs and other products. Purchasers of the misrepresented drug in that case received a refund of 100% of their purchase price, totaling $220 million for all Missouri purchasers.
Obtaining Favorable Interpretations of Insurance Policies
In Manner v. Schiermeier, GRG represented a motorcyclist who suffered severe injuries in a traffic collision. The Missouri Supreme Court held that the motorcyclist could collect underinsured motorist benefits under several policies. The Court rejected the argument of the two defendant insurers that exclusions for “owned vehicles” precluded coverage of the injured motorcyclist’s vehicle. It found that neither insurer expressly defined “owned” in its policies, and that they did not meet their burden of proof regarding the exclusions. The court also allowed “stacking” of the policies, which could entitle the injured motorcyclist to the maximum coverage amount under each policy.
In Brancati v. BiState, a GRG appeal, was the first appellate case to clarify the legislative changes adopted in 2017 by Missouri lawmakers with regard to collateral source evidence. The appellate court held that an amendment to the “collateral source" rule does not bar plaintiffs from introducing the full amount they were billed for their medical care.
A $625,000 jury verdict had been obtained against the Bi-State Development Agency in favor of Dawn Brancati, who was injured when a Metro bus struck her while she was riding her bicycle on the campus of Washington University. GRG has frequently been involved in appeals that lead to guidance on how certain statutes and rules of evidence should be interpreted by trial courts. Attorneys at GRG received the Missouri Lawyers Weekly appellate advocates award for their work on this precedent setting case
GRG helped establish precedent to hold accountable corporations that release dangerous toxins that harm others
In Doyle and Meyer v. Fluor Corporation, GRG represented persons who suffered personal injuries, and property owners who suffered damage to their property due to emission of toxins from a nearby lead smelter. After many years of hard-fought litigation, GRG was able to obtain $39.6 million for the personal injury victims and $55 million for property damage victims. This was the first case in which the Missouri Supreme Court recognized a cause of action for medical monitoring that could be asserted by those exposed to harmful substances but who do not yet have personal injury.
GRG worked to protect voting rights
In Weinschenk v. Missouri, Gray Ritter Graham’s advocacy for the poor, elderly, disabled and others who have difficulty obtaining a photo ID led to a seminal Missouri Supreme Court decision finding that Missouri citizens’ fundamental right to vote is violated by requiring each voter to present a photo ID to vote. It struck down as unconstitutional the legislature’s imposition of this requirement.