JEFFERSON CITY – Senate Bill 65, which is currently making its way through the Senate, seeks to create a higher standard for plaintiffs pursuing punitive damages by proving harm was "deliberate and flagrant."
"The act provides that punitive damages shall only be awarded if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others," the bill reads.
Ray McCarty, president of the Associated Industries of Missouri, told the St. Louis Record that the organization and its members fully support the proposal.
"The bill provides common sense reform to the way punitive damages are handled: the process by which they are introduced into a lawsuit and under what circumstances punitive damages should be due," McCarty said.
McCarty believes that "the current system allows punitive damages to be alleged in more cases than proper, including negligence cases," and "while negligence may be enough to create liability, it is our belief that something more than simple negligence should be required."
McCarty said the proposal would establish a more appropriate standard for asserting punitive damages.
"In today's environment, punitive damages are threatened as a means to encourage a larger settlement and are routinely incorporated into cases," he said. "Punitive damages are, by definition, meant to punish an actor so they do not repeat the action. SB 65 would allow punitive damages when the plaintiff intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others. We believe this standard is more appropriate."
SB 65 awaits a vote in the Senate. If signed into law by the governor, it would go into effect Aug. 28.