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Ninety-day notice requirement in city charter upheld

In Zang v. City of St. Charles, 659 S.W.3d 327 (Mo. 2023), a recent case arising out of a bicycle accident in the City of St. Charles, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the City’s charter provision requiring written notice be provided within ninety days of injury to maintain a claim for damages against the City. Without giving the requisite 90-days’ notice, the bicyclist filed suit against St. Charles. The City moved to dismiss based on its notice requirement and, in response, the plaintiff argued it was counter to various Missouri statutes. The trial court disagreed, and the Supreme Court upheld its decision. Article VI, section 19(a) of the Missouri Constitution grants a charter city like St. Charles the ability to exercise all powers not in conflict with the Missouri Constitution, state statutes, or the charter itself. The City’s notice requirement did not conflict with constitutional or statutory law. The Supreme Court rejected the idea that because § 82.210 RSMo., mandates that constitutional charter cities with a population of 100,000 or more be notified within 90 days of injuries related to defects in city property, it did not follow that charter cities with less than 100,000 residents were prohibited from creating their own 90-day notice requirement. The Court again, “cautioned against the use of the maxim that … omissions shall be understood as exclusions … except when the legislature’s intent is self-evident within the statute.” As a result, while § 82.210 RSMo. did not create a statutory notice requirement for St. Charles, it did not prohibit the City from enacting its own. The Court also explained that the 90-day notice requirement was not in conflict with the statute of limitations under §516.120 RSMo., because notice requirements are rooted in sovereign immunity, and the language of §516.120 RSMo. does not limit or deny the power of a charter city to impose a notice requirement.

As an aside, third and fourth class cities should be aware that, like § 82.210 and St. Charles’ Charter, the Missouri statutes also include a 90-day notice requirement before filing suit for injuries allegedly related to a dangerous condition of public property. See Section 77.600 (90-day notice requirement for injuries growing out of any defect or unsafe condition of or on any bridge, boulevard, street, sidewalk or thoroughfare in a third class city) and Section 79.480 (90-day notice requirement for injuries growing out of any defect or unsafe condition of or on any bridge, boulevard, street, sidewalk or thoroughfare in a fourth class city).

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