Largest Jury Verdict in Missouri
Some jury verdicts are intended to send a message rather than provide remuneration. That was the case with a 1992 verdict that remains the largest in Missouri history.
Marty Meyers of the Meyers Law Firm in Kansas City won a $5 billion award for the family of a victim of Kansas City serial killer Robert Berdella. Berdella murdered six young men at his Kansas City home in the mid-1980s. He eventually pleaded guilty to six counts of first- or second-degree murder, in exchange for the prosecutor’s agreement not to seek the death penalty.
Berdella was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole and died in prison of a heart attack the same year the wrongful death verdict was rendered.
Meyers represented Betty Ann Haste, whose son, Todd Stoops, died at Berdella’s hands in 1986. Berdella was then in the penitentiary, and he was represented by the Jackson County public administrator as trustee for his estate.
The verdict in Jackson County comprised $2.5 billion for actual damages and $2.5 billion for punitive damages. It was seen as largely uncollectable, though Haste was later able to collect the actual damages from Berdella’s homeowner’s policy.
Meyers, son of a former Jackson County judge, remains one of the top trial lawyers in his native Kansas City.