ST LOUIS – A bill that passed the state Senate promises to reform how tort cases involving vehicle accidents are handled in the state.
Senate Bill 30, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby), aims to allow failure to wear a safety belt in a vehicle as evidence of an occupant's negligence in litigation involving auto accidents.
As stated in the Missouri Senate website, "under current law in any civil action to recover damages, failure to wear a safety belt is not allowed as evidence of comparative negligence, but may be introduced to mitigate damages. This act provides that in actions arising out the design, construction, manufacture, distribution, or sale of a motor vehicle factory equipped with a safety belt, failure to wear a safety belt by the plaintiff shall be admissible as evidence of comparative negligence or fault, causation, absence of a defect or hazard, and failure to mitigate damages."
Rep. Allen Andrews (R-Grant City) told the St. Louis Record he does not have a solid position on the vote for the bill.
"At this time, I am still researching the details and merits of the bill so I am unable to give you a solid yes or no," Andrews said, adding that he was "leaning heavily in the direction of support, depending on how the bill may look as it moves through the House."
The District 1 representative also emphasized the need for reform to the state's civil justice system.
"I believe Missouri’s tort laws must be tightened up and should be a priority for this legislature to examine," Andrews said.
The bill is now in the House, where it had a second read on March 11, but with no other votes scheduled.
If it passes and gets signed by the governor, the law would become effective on Jan. 1, 2020.