Meyer v. Fluor Corp.

220 S.W.3d 712 (Mo. 2007)

 

RULE:

Recovering medical monitoring damages does not require a threshold showing of present physical injury. A plaintiff can obtain damages for medical monitoring upon a showing that the plaintiff has a significantly increased risk of contracting a particular disease relative to what would be the case in the absence of exposure. Once that has been proven, the plaintiff must then show that medical monitoring is, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, necessary in order to diagnose properly the warning signs of disease.

FACTS:

Plaintiff appealed from an order of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, which denied class certification in a tort action filed on behalf of a proposed class of children exposed to lead due to the operation of a lead smelter. Plaintiff sought, inter alia, to recover compensatory damages for the expense of prospective medical monitoring allegedly necessitated by emissions from the smelter. In its order denying class certification, the circuit court identified nine individual issues that the court concluded were predominant over the common issues. Each of those nine individual factors was primarily relevant to a personal injury action, not a medical monitoring claim for which there was no necessity of establishing a present physical injury. It was the common fact of exposure to a set of toxins from a single source that was the common and overriding issue in plaintiff's case. The significance and extent of toxic exposure was primarily an issue of common proof. Under that theory of liability, the individual factors identified by the circuit court were not particularly relevant because the need for monitoring was based on a common threshold of exposure.

ISSUE:

Do individual personal injury issues necessarily predominate over common issues in a class action?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

In its order denying class certification, the circuit court identified nine individual issues that the court concluded were predominant over the common issues. Each of those nine individual factors was primarily relevant to a personal injury action, not a medical monitoring claim for which there was no necessity of establishing a present physical injury. It was the common fact of exposure to a set of toxins from a single source that was the common and overriding issue in plaintiff's case. The significance and extent of toxic exposure was primarily an issue of common proof. Under that theory of liability, the individual factors identified by the circuit court were not particularly relevant because the need for monitoring was based on a common threshold of exposure. The circuit court erred in relying on issues primarily relevant to a personal injury claim, and misapplied the law by applying personal injury concepts to plaintiff's medical monitoring claim and in holding that the individual personal injury issues predominated over common issues.

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