WASHINGTON, DC — Missouri's efforts at tort reform this past summer didn't factor in a national poll released this week that ranks states by their legal climate. The state, however, still saw a slight improvement.
Missouri ranked 49th out of 50 U.S. states in the "2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States," which was conducted by Harris Poll and published by U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, which owns this publication.
Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard
Missouri's new rank is an improvement from the state's position at the bottom the last time the poll was conducted, according to a statement by the institute.
"The survey was in the field in the spring before the new reforms passed, and therefore reflect Missouri’s long-running problems with its lawsuit climate rather than the positive impact of its new laws," the statement said.
Despite a rift between the state legislature and the governor's office, tort reform managed to pass this year. The Missouri General Assembly passed several key pieces of legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, is expected to bring about significant changes to civil litigation in the state. The legislation included provisions that many expect will change the state's collateral source rule, adoption of the Daubert Standard and restraints on insurance bad faith claims.
Among the tort reform bills signed by Greitens in June was SB88, which gives veterinarians the same malpractice coverage as doctors, dentists and other medical professionals, and HB 452, which with certain exceptions renders health care provider not liable for the negligence of another entity or person who is not an employee of the health care provider.
"Tort reform is important," the governor said in a press release that announced his signing of the tort reform legislation. "We need to prevent trial lawyers from killing good jobs.”
Participants in the in the Institute for Legal Reform survey included 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys and other senior executives with annual revenues of at least $100 million who said they knew about litigation matters, according to the survey.
The survey was conducted through more than 1,300 telephone and online interviews between March 31 and June 26, which asked for rankings about topics such as fairness of a given state's lawsuit environments in 10 categories, includING state laws, courts, judges and juries. Missouri's tort reform legislation was making its way through the state General Assembly during much of that time.
Missouri's efforts at tort reform did not go unnoticed, Lisa A. Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform, said in a statement.
"Missouri’s lawsuit climate is in a state of transition, and Gov. Greitens and the state legislature deserve credit for rolling up their sleeves and working hard to turn things around," she said. "That’s a tall order given the poor legal environment that developed under past leaders, but the state is now showing a new determination to be known as the ‘Show-Me State’ rather than the ‘Sue-Me State.’”