JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President of Governmental Affairs Matthew Panik sees a long road ahead in the remainder of 2019 and 2020, despite some success with civil justice reform initiatives.
Panik, a St. Louis University graduate, sees the success of Senate Bills No. 7, 30 and 224 as a step in the right direction for the state, and especially the city of St. Louis, but expects further civil justice reform to ensure in the coming months.
Senate Bill No. 7, which would make it more difficult for plaintiffs from outside St. Louis to file their lawsuits in the city’s court, was approved by the Senate on March 4. The bill cleared the House and was delivered to the governor on May 29.
As previously reported by the St. Louis Record, the bill places restrictions on the joinder process for plaintiffs seeking to get around Missouri’s venue requirements. The measure also adopts the state’s Supreme Court decision from Feb. 13 in Johnson & Johnson v. Burlison.
”We have a judicial system throughout the state that is funded by taxpayers and it is suitable to pursue relief where the injury occurred or where the defendant is,” Panik said. “Trials shouldn’t just be held in the city of St. Louis because of the favorable outcomes that are handed out there.”
Panik also touted the Chamber of Commerce’s success in delivering Senate Bill No. 30 to the governor’s desk, which allows evidence of failure to wear a seat belt to prove comparative negligence, causation, absence of defect and failure to mitigate damages.
Senate Bill No. 30 also reached the governor’s desk on May 29.
Panik said the chamber backed civil procedure reform as it relates to the rules of discovery through Senate Bill No. 224.
“(The bill) is about the number of interrogatories and a lot of the process of discovery,” Panik said. “(The process) was (tightened) up a little bit so that (civil procedure) can’t be extended and become more costly than it already is for businesses. Those were really the three civil justice (initiatives) that got done this year.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has set its sights on punitive damage reform and Merchandising Act reform for 2020.
“We’re looking at ways to make that process a little more accountable so that punitive damages aren’t used to force a business’s hand in a settlement because of the prospects of punitive damages down the line,” Panik said. “There is some Missouri Merchandising Act reform that we’ve worked on for a couple of years. Folks around consumer laws are making sure that a reasonable consumer standard is used in those cases. The goal there is to have less abuse of the system when some of these consumer cases are brought.”