JEFFERSON CITY – In the wake of a bill in Wisconsin dealing with changes to civil-litigation guidelines being signed into law, Brad Jones, Missouri state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said his organization is supportive of two similar bills introduced to the Missouri Legislature.
“We’ve got two bills that are going through the Legislature right now that deal with, basically a statute of repose for products in general,” Jones told the St. Louis Record.
Brad Jones | nfib.com
Although the Wisconsin law primarily addresses litigation related to construction, Jones said Missouri's House and Senate bills include “a 10-year statute for products manufactured that have any sort of a problem, not specifically construction.”
As previously reported by John Breslin in Legal Newsline, the bill passed March 22 by the Wisconsin Legislature, which Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker supported, reduces the amount of time consumers have to file lawsuits against contractors. The Wisconsin law also gives contractors in the state more breathing room in lawsuit discovery and insurance issues.
The Institute for Legal Reform reported April 4 that Walker signed the Wisconsin bill into law and that the bill specifically “(requires) disclosure of third-party litigation funding arrangements.”
“In a blog post, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard said the law ‘brings litigation funding out of the shadows’ so funders ‘can’t anonymously ‘pull the strings’ of a lawsuit without other parties’ knowledge,’” the institute wrote.
Under the Missouri bills, Jones said “a person who is injured by a product has 10 years after the sale or lease of the product” to file a lawsuit.
Jones said the Missouri bills are “on the calendar, actually,” but “neither one of them has been debated in the Senate or House yet.”
In addition, Jones said the associated topic of third-party litigation financing has been “kind of hot and heavy in Missouri for a couple of years.”
According to Jones, the main debate in Missouri has centered around oversight of these lawsuits, “and there have been competing interests.”
“I think there needs to be at least some kind of oversight of those kind of activities,” Jones said. “I think if (litigants are) going to act like a bank or financial institution, there needs to be some kind of oversight.”
The St. Louis Record’s Ann Maher reported in a March 5 story that two bills in play in Missouri “propose different ways of overseeing a growing practice in the legal profession -- litigation lending to people who want upfront payment while their cases play out in court.”