Firestone v. Crown Center Redevelopment Corp.

693 S.W.2d 99 (1985)

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Firestone v. Crown Center Redevelopment Corp.

Missouri Supreme Court
693 S.W.2d 99 (1985)

Facts

Sally Firestone (plaintiff) received a $15,000,000 verdict against Crown Center Redevelopment Corp. (Crown Center) and other parties (defendants) for injuries she experienced when suspended balconies at a hotel fell. Crown Center appealed the size of the jury award and alleged trial errors, including the trial court’s denial of a change-of-venue request. Crown Center believed that a change of venue should have been granted because of the publicity surrounding the collapse at the hotel, which killed 114 people and injured many others. At an evidentiary hearing on Crown Center’s application, Crown Center presented evidence of intense publicity covering the collapse and other lawsuits from the time frame of the collapse through the time of Firestone’s litigation, over two years later. Crown Center argued that public passion and prejudice were incited toward them due to the publicity. To demonstrate the presence of public hostility in the venue, Crown Center introduced a telephone survey of 1,000 residents. The survey asked two questions. The first question simply asked whether the resident had heard about the collapse of the hotel balconies; 98 percent of respondents had heard about it. Second, without naming the defendants, the respondents were asked whether, based on whatever they had already heard, they thought that the defendants in the trials for compensatory damages ought to be punished. Fifty-four percent said yes, 14 percent said no, and 32 percent either refused or were unable to comment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Higgins, J.)

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