Missouri in Hot Pursuit of Tort Reform in 2019

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July 08, 2019

Summer has started and, while temperatures are rising, state legislative sessions are cooling down for the season. Legal reform was a hot topic in many states this year, and Missouri was no exception. The Show-Me State passed three key reform bills aimed at reining in an out-of-control lawsuit climate.

In ILR’s 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey, Missouri ranked 50th for enforcing meaningful venue requirements. Fortunately, Senate Bill 7 curbs forum shopping. Previous rules allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to file lawsuits in areas with a reputation for awarding large verdicts, even if their clients didn’t have any connections there. This bill requires lawsuits to be filed where plaintiffs live, where they were allegedly injured, or where a defendant is located.

Next, Senate Bill 224 overhauls Missouri’s current discovery rules. The bill streamlines the discovery process—which allows both sides in a lawsuit to gather evidence before a trial—by making the state’s rules similar to those used in Federal Court. Plaintiffs’ lawyers often use excessive discovery requests to drive up litigation costs, but the new bill will now be cleaner, quicker and less expensive for both plaintiffs and defendants.

Lastly, Senate Bill 30 allows verdict reductions if a plaintiff contributed to their injury by failing to wear a seatbelt. The bill will serve a dual purpose of making court proceedings fairer and encouraging seat belt safety in general.

These reforms will make Missouri’s courts less clogged with lawyer-driven lawsuits and more able to offer justice in regular cases.

ILR encourages Governor Mike Parson to sign these measures into law, and have the “show-me” state show others what it takes to enact meaningful tort reform.