Comparative fault applies in professional negligence actions alleging only economic damages

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Recent Cases: Accounting

July/August 2011, Volume 26, No. 4

Comparative fault applies in professional negligence actions alleging only economic damages 

Children’s Wish Found. Intl., Inc. v. Mayer Hoffman McCann, P.C., 331 S.W.3d 648 (Mo. 2011).

The Missouri Supreme Court held that comparative fault principles apply to negligence cases claiming only economic damages.

Here, a charity filed suit against its former auditors, alleging economic damages resulting from the defendants’ negligence during the audit. The defendants asserted that the plaintiffs’ failure to provide accurate records during the audit constituted contributory negligence. A contributory negligence instruction was later given to the jury, which subsequently found in favor of the defense.

Reversing, the Missouri high court noted that the state has adopted a system of comparative fault to allow juries to assess the relative fault of litigants and assess damages accordingly. The court found no reason to limit application of comparative fault based on the nature of the claimed injury. Negligence actions are fault-driven, whether a plaintiff has suffered a broken limb in a car accident or lost money due to professional negligence, the court said. Moreover, the court reasoned that consistency dictates applying comparative fault in cases alleging personal injury as well as economic loss.

Consequently, the court remanded, holding that the plaintiff had been prejudiced by the contributory negligence instruction.

Plaintiff’s Counsel

Michael W. Blanton, Leawood, Kansas


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