Recent Missouri legislation says that punitive damages in any tort case may not exceed $500,000 or five times the net amount of any judgement awarded to the plaintiff against the defendant, whichever is greater. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 510.265 (2011).
The Missouri Supreme Court has held that a defamation plaintiff must prove impairment to reputation in order to recover any damages for defamation and that emotional distress alone will not suffice. Kenney v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 100 S.W.3d 809, 814 (Mo. 2003).
Missouri has no criminal libel statute.
Privileges and Defenses
Missouri courts recognize a number of privileges and defenses in the context of defamation cases, including substantial truth, the wire service defense, the fair reportage privilege, and opinion and fair comment privileges.
Missouri has not adopted the neutral reportage doctrine officially, although some cases show some recognition of a more limited privilege. Englezos v. Newspress & Gazette Co. 981 S.W.2d 25, 32 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998). The Eighth Circuit has suggested adherence to the neutral reportage doctrine. Price v. Viking Penguin Inc., 881 F.2d 1426, 1434, 1444 (8th Cir. 1989).
At common law, truth was considered a complete defense to libel (i.e., the defendant would have the burden to prove truth). Mortiz v. Kan. City Star Co., 258 S.W.2d 583 (Mo. 1953); Bartulica v. Pasculdo, 411 F. Supp 392, 397 (W.D. Mo. 1976).
Now falsity must be proven by the plaintiff, at least in cases where the defendant is a member of the media. Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 475 U.S. 767 (1986). "Under the controlling constiutional standards, public officials, public figures and private persons using media defendants [for libel] must establish that the defendant published a false statement of fact." Anton v. St. Louis Suburban Newspapers, Inc., 598 S.W.2d 493, 498 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980).