Reckless Disclosure Statement Yields Punitive Damages and Attorney Fees

The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) serves to protect consumers, and it prohibits “false, fraudulent or deceptive merchandising practices.” Plaintiff Tiffanie Soetaert sued Platinum Realty of Missouri alleging that the company violated this act. Soetaert purchased a home that she later discovered had foundation and water intrusion problems. The home was purchased through a seller’s agent who was employed at Platinum, which ultimately, was found to have failed to properly disclose the water intrusion as well as specific work that was done to the foundation.

The Jackson County Circuit Court awarded Soetaert compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees. Platinum then appealed on three points, and Soetaert appealed on one point. The Missouri Court of Appeals denied all three of Platinum’s points on appeal but granted Soetaert’s sole point on appeal: that the attorneys’ fees rewarded were “grossly inadequate.” Soetaert was initially awarded a total of $11,623.47 despite her claimed $128,432.50 in attorneys’ fees. The Court of Appeals found that the initial decision did not include sufficient hours in its calculation to cover the true amount of time that would have been expended during the course of the case. The trial court has been ordered to recalculate and award Soetaert with the appropriate amount from both the initial trial as well as appellate attorneys’ fees.

Tiffanie Soetaert vs. Novani Flips, LLC, Platinum Realty of Missouri, LLC
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District – WD82933 and WD82964

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