ST. LOUIS –– From pro-tort courts to record-setting verdicts, one legal expert says Missouri is fast becoming the "Sue Me State."
Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow James R. Copland recently released an analysis of the state's legal woes in his annual Trial Lawyers Inc. series.
“In 2017, we decided to focus on Missouri because it is a poster child for legal abuse with crazy litigation, out-of-control verdicts and magnet courts for out-of-state lawsuits," Copland told the Louisiana Record. "Plus, we saw a lot of tort-reform activity in the state with some significant reforms enacted in 2017."
Since the first Trial Lawyers Inc. report in 2003, Copeland and the Manhattan Institute have published multiple studies focusing on specific subject areas of litigation and problem states.
Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow James R. Copland
The 2018 report highlights how poorly Missouri performed across the board.
Copland used data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform's 2017 Lawsuit Climate, which he said is the gold standard for assessing how corporate leaders and attorneys view a state's litigation climate.
"It helpfully ranks not only overall tort systems but issues like venue, evidence, discovery, jury fairness, and judicial fairness and competence," he said.
Missouri ranked 49th out of the 50 states, ahead of only Louisiana in terms of its handling of discovery and evidence, class-action and mass-tort litigation, and venue in 2017. That is down from 42nd in 2015 and 34th in 2012.
These numbers, Copeland said, influence corporate leaders' decisions about where to locate or expand.
Copeland praised former governor Eric Greitens' attempts to fix the problems in his 16 months in office.
“My hope is that his personal problems that led to his resignation will not take this issue off the table in Missouri,” Copland said.